It's tough to watch the news today without hearing about the dysfunction in Congress. With the recent government shutdown, little action on passing major legislation, and a near technical default, people of all political affiliations are noticing the problems in Washington. But this article isn't about Democrats, Republicans, or any other political party; it's about investing and four ways to profit from the gridlock.
The disagreement in Congress has managed to delay a new national infrastructure policy. And this problem is showing up in many parts of our infrastructure system. As a whole, the American Society of Engineers gives the U.S. a "D+" rating for infrastructure. And for roads, its even worse, as the nation earns a solid "D" grade.
But there is a way to capitalize on this infrastructure problem. Even as roads remain substandard, people still need to drive and will continue to do so.
And all this driving on damaged roads takes a toll on car tires. That's good news for Goodyear Tire & Rubber (NASDAQ:GT), which stands to see more sales if more tires are damaged on roads, as consumers will still need to replace them.
The upside for Goodyear even goes beyond additional sales from road damage. A rebound in the auto industry means more auto sales as consumers seek to modernize what is the oldest fleet of cars ever on the road. Since new cars tend to come with new tires, accelerating car sales form another positive for Goodyear.
After the tragic Newtown shooting, there was a renewed call for gun-control measures at the federal level. Despite the support of the vast majority of the American public, the bill that would have introduced additional firearms restrictions failed to become law.
It's tough to see how there would be a time where a gun-control bill would have a better chance of passing than right after the Newtown tragedy. Whether you were in favor of the bill itself, its failure to pass and the large uphill battle any such legislation would face in the future is good for firearms manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWHC).
Having built a business around the sales of firearms, Smith & Wesson could be hurt if Congress were to completely overhaul federal gun laws by instituting additional firearms restrictions. In this way, Congressional inaction prevents the passage of financially damaging legislation.
Although the nation's largest banks have been fully privatized again, government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae (NASDAQOTH:FNMA) and Freddie Mac (NASDAQOTH:FMCC) remain under tight government control. Ever since the Sweep Amendment was put in place, Fannie and Freddie's profits have been flowing to the Treasury, giving them no chance of escaping from government control.
The positions of various members of Congress seem to center on a plan to wind down the GSEs. The problem is, they can't agree on how to do it. After all, winding down and replacing two multitrillion-dollar enterprises that play a critical role in the national mortgage market is no easy task, especially in a Congress that's in an uncooperative mood to begin with.
The hope for the GSEs' shareholders lies in court, where Perry Capital is challenging the constitutionality of the Sweep Amendment and seeking to remove it, thus allowing Fannie and Freddie to begin using their profits themselves.
Since lawsuits can take a long time to play out, Fannie and Freddie shareholders need Congress to not act. For Fannie and Freddie, Congressional gridlock is essential to their very existence.
Plenty has been said about how the problems in Congress are harmful to the economy. But these four companies can profit from the dysfunction because of their businesses or sales structures.
Investors who believe Congress will remain a polarized body in which getting things accomplished is markedly difficult should see whether these stocks are right for them.
Alexander MacLennan owns shares of Freddie Mac. This article is not an endorsement to buy or sell any security and does not constitute professional investment advice. Always do your own due diligence before buying or selling any security. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. 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.