Lately, investors have been tossed about like a ship in the midst of a raging economic storm. The housing crisis, sky-high oil prices, a falling stock market, and rising unemployment have all converged to create dark clouds over the U.S. economy. A lot of folks fear that the next rogue wave will capsize them completely.
Unfortunately, it may get worse before it gets better.
The excesses in the housing market will probably take many years to correct, especially in overheated markets such as those in California and Florida. There's little indication that oil prices will fall, and inflation is starting to pick up in other areas of the economy as well. Stocks are still down more than 9% from the start of the year, and they show little sign of shaking off any summer doldrums.
With all of the negativity floating around in the market, finding any good news is becoming more and more difficult.
A light ahead
But I believe the light at the end of the tunnel may be closer than most people realize -- and no, that light is not an oncoming train.
Let's look at history. Over the past 50 years, the average recession has lasted roughly 11 months. So, assuming that we are actually in a recession, the odds are good that it started late last year. If this downturn is like the average one, then, the economy should start to come out of its coma early this fall.
And since the stock market typically heads up a few months before the economy does, the market bottom could come as soon as July or August. That's practically right around the corner! Of course, there's no guarantee that this recession will play by the rules, but I'd say there's a greater chance that it will than that it won't.
The overhangs in housing and the credit mess will take some time to resolve, so don't bet the farm that all of our economic woes will go away in 2008. The financial sector has some cleaning up to do, and the cleanup job looks to be a multiyear project. However, other areas of the market are set to lead us out of this downturn.
The early bird gets the worm
To catch the market's bounce back up, you have to be in the game ahead of time. So if you've been sitting on the sidelines, it's time to get back into the action by combing through the market to find the stocks most likely to capitalize on the coming rebound.
Where to start? Well, the tech sector is a great place to go hunting for tomorrow's winners. A lot of tech issues have been beaten down recently but still boast excellent long-term prospects.
Big names such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) , and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) are prime examples of temporarily depressed growth companies that have brighter days ahead of them. Likewise, lesser-known telecom companies, such as American Tower (NYSE: AMT ) and Crown Castle International (NYSE: CCI ) , also sport great prospects for future growth.
Valuations in many health-care stocks are also starting to look compelling. If you're poking around in this sector, you might want to look at Gilead Sciences (Nasdaq: GILD ) or Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY ) . No matter what state our economy is in, health care will come to play an increasingly important part in our lives, and these two companies are especially well positioned to benefit from that ever-expanding role.
The Foolish bottom line
I can't tell you exactly when the market will hit rock bottom, but I can tell you this -- it will happen, and it will be sooner rather than later.
If you'd like to be invested in a broad spectrum of the market when the turnaround comes, I also recommend carefully selected mutual funds as the way to go. They provide significant diversification across sectors, and the best of the bunch charge low fees and rack up market-beating gains year after year.
If you want the inside scoop from the industry's top experts on what to buy, the Fool's Champion Funds investment service could be your new best friend. Click here to get a free 30-day trial -- with no obligation to subscribe.
Amanda Kish heads up the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service. At the time of publication, she did not own any of the companies mentioned herein. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Apple is a Stock Advisor choice. The Fool has a disclosure policy.