Back in August, when the current subprime fiasco was just beginning to snowball, I read an article by James Altucher in The Financial Times. I find Altucher a voice of reason in the current market environment, and the August article was no exception, as he suggested investors "pick stocks, buy houses, don't worry."
That may be the best advice for any Fool to follow as we head into 2008. Of course, one year doesn't mean all that much for those of us who approach the market with three- to five-year investment horizons, but you know what value investors recommend doing when there is blood in the street.
According to my Dueling Fool counterpart today, the streets are already red and will only become more so in the coming year. According to Chuck Saletta, the current environment has a number of parallels to the Great Depression, politicians are only serving to exacerbate food price and other inflation (thanks in part to "idiotic energy legislation"), and the Fed is only serving to "fan the flames of economic disaster."
I can't argue with most of Chuck's specific arguments, but on balance I believe there are a number of factors that will keep the U.S. economy far from imploding in 2008. For starters, global growth will pull us through. We're already seeing the benefits of a weak dollar as foreign tourists and shoppers flock to New York and other cities to take advantage of their strong currencies. A weak dollar should also work wonders for our current account deficit, which was created from years of importing much more than we exported.
In terms of our domestic energy policy, we are already seeing signs that the ethanol craze is not all it's cracked up to be, as it is not a very economical way to create fuel. And Chuck already has identified that the housing bust is bringing home affordability back to reasonable levels, helping us gear up for the next expansion, even if it is still a few years off. Regardless of how the U.S. and other global economies perform going forward, there will be plenty of opportunities for bottom-up investors to profit.
Volatility is a good thing if you know how to be patient and use it to your advantage. In addition to the opportunities I mentioned in my opener, domestic retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond (Nasdaq: BBBY ) , Staples (Nasdaq: SPLS ) , and Target (NYSE: TGT ) look interesting, as do the credit rating agencies in Moody's (NYSE: MCO ) and S&P, which is owned by McGraw Hill (NYSE: MHP ) . Barring a serious recession or regulatory backlash against ratings agencies, these and other names should trade up once negativity subsides in the U.S. And don't forget about going global as another theme for 2008.
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