When you see good companies with their share prices pushed to 52-week lows, it could be time to load up on them. Today I’m looking at three candidates that have achieved that unenviable low.

I’ll start with Prudential (LSE: PRU), which is down 19% over the past 12 months to 1,313p, and up just a fraction from its 12-month low just a few days ago. Prudential is aptly named, and it’s pretty much a byword for a conservatively well-managed company. It was never stretched, and sailed through the financial crisis practically without even noticing it.

And now its shares can be picked up on a P/E multiple of 12 based on expected earnings for the year just ended, dropping to 11 on December 2016 forecasts. The forecast dividend yield for 2016 is up to 3.4%. That’s not the highest in the sector, but in accordance with the Pru’s approach it would be around 2.7 times covered by earnings.

The third quarter was very solid again, with new business profit up 13% after strong growth in UK and Asian business, leading chief executive Mike Wells to speak of optimism, even in the long-term outlook for Asia. To me, Prudential looks like one of those investments where you surely can’t lose.

Cheap bank

I’ve not been much of a fan of Royal Bank of Scotland (LSE: RBS) since the post-crash recovery started, largely because it’s been the slowest to get its act back together. But with the dreadful start to 2016 helping push the bank’s shares down 32% in 12 months to 249p, taking in a new 52-week low just a few days ago, even I can’t ignore it.

The bank came through the 2015 Bank of England stress tests reasonably comfortably, and is poised to report its first proper profit for years when 2015 results are revealed — due on 26 February. The latest estimates, which surely can’t be far out at this stage, would suggest a P/E of 10.4, which looks cheap.

Dividends should be back in the coming year, and though there’s only a modest 0.4% yield forecast, 2017 should see that being hiked significantly. On its own fundamentals, RBS looks a decent investment to me — but I’d still steer clear of it while I’m seeing better bargains in the shape of Lloyds and Barclays.

Picks and shovels

Volex (LSE: VLX), the maker of a multitude of cabling and interconnect products, was something of a late September dog when a profit warning caused the share price to tumble, contributing to a 47% fall from July’s peak to today’s 44.5p.

But we had a management restructuring in December, and the City bods are predicting a more-than-doubling in EPS for the year to March 2016, which would give us a P/E of only around 11 — and a further 50% EPS rise penciled in for 2017 would drop that as low as 7.5, which looks super cheap to me, despite the absence of dividends.

In these bearish times people are usually looking for safety, but we mustn’t forget that there are still smaller cap growth opportunities out there, and Volex looks like a promising candidate to me.

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Alan Oscroft owns shares in Lloyds Banking Group. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Barclays. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.