3 Stocks Near 52-Week Lows Worth Buying

Just as we examine companies each week that may be rising past their fair value, we can also find companies potentially trading at bargain prices. While many investors would rather have nothing to do with companies tipping the scales at 52-week lows, I think it makes a lot of sense to determine whether the market has overreacted to the downside, just as we often do when the market reacts to the upside.

Here's a look at three fallen angels trading near their 52-week lows that could be worth buying.

Rolling in dough
One common theme with this series is that a lot of previously unknown, small-cap stocks get featured -- and today is no different, with IP telephony company ShoreTel (NAS: SHOR) .

ShoreTel's stock imploded in early February following weaker-than-expected guidance, but there are far too many bright spots to ignore at these levels. To start with, ShoreTel is sitting on $115.9 million in cash, or $2.41 per share, with no debt. That comprises nearly half of the company's $236 million market value. ShoreTel is also firmly entrenched in the quickly growing telecommunications equipment field. Yes, it's a crowded field, but analysts are nonetheless projecting annual growth of 17.5% over the next five years out of ShoreTel. Finally, its most recent report (the one that Wall Street shunned) indicates strength, with sales growing 22% year over year and 8% sequentially. At 23 times next year's earnings and with insiders buying, this looks like a smart gamble with minimal downside.

Bank on it
The banking crisis took its toll on much of the financial sector, but a few companies came away relatively unscathed. That's why First Niagara Financial (NAS: FNFG) is getting my vote of confidence this week for its relatively conservative portfolio management and incredibly healthy equity position.

First Niagara boasts one of the highest tier-1 capital ratios in the industry at 15.6%. This measure of financial stability signals that First Niagara is well capitalized to deal with any economic downturns if they were to arise again.

But the real reason the stock is skirting near a 52-week low has to do with its decision to price a $450 million secondary offering of shares and cut its dividend in half in December. The reason for the dividend cut -- and why the $110 million it will save the company annually is so important -- is that First Niagara is paying $1 billion to aggressively expand its reach in the Northeast. It is purchasing 196 branches from HSBC (NYS: HBC) , but isn't planning on keeping each and every one. First Niagara has plans to turn around and sell 37 of those HSBC branches to KeyCorp (NYS: KEY) , and an additional 20 HSBC branches to various banks in the Northeast. Even with the added risk of taking on new branches, the post-cut 3.5% dividend is too delectable to pass up here.

To infinity... and beyond
I'm not one to buy into the hype around space travel, but I'm impressed enough with the cash flowing into this burgeoning industry that I'm going to give my thumbs-up to small-cap aerospace and defense play Orbital Sciences (NYS: ORB) .

Shareholders are really tearing this one in two separate directions since its military and space operations have been hurt by a decrease in government spending, but the prospect of increased space travel spending is right around the corner. Orbital Sciences also recently secured part of a $3.5 billion contract along with privately owned Space Exploration Technologies to fly supplies to the International Space Station. I've long felt Orbital Sciences represented a compelling takeover candidate because of its strong cash position and a lack of extensive competition in the sector. This contract could be the medicine that cures a larger aerospace firm's growth issues, and it's for that reason that I'm adding Orbital Sciences to my list of companies expected to outperform going forward.

Foolish roundup
This week we took a look at three companies that have large amounts of equity on their balance sheet and appear ready to weather any industry downturns. I'm so confident that these three names will bounce off their lows that I'm going to make a CAPScall of outperform on each one.

In the meantime, consider adding these potential winners to your free and personalized watchlist and get your own personal copy of our special report, "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012," to see which company our chief investment officer has dubbed the "Costco of Latin America." Best of all, this report is completely free, so don't miss out!

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. He has met enough space cadets in his lifetime that he doesn't feel compelled to travel to space. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen name TMFUltraLong, track every pick he makes under the screen name TrackUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @TMFUltraLong.The Motley Fool owns shares of KeyCorp. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Orbital Sciences. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy that's always on the lookout for a good deal.

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