Inflation recently touched a 17-year peak. Foreclosures have spiked relative to this time last year. Legendary investors like Bill Miller and Warren Buffett are deep in the red on a year-to-date basis. Is it the end of the world as we know it?
We feel fine
In a word, no.
Turns out the business cycle hasn't been repealed, and while the ever-tightening credit market has added a new wrinkle to this particular rough patch, every period of extreme market volatility has come laced with its own special blend of arsenic.
Readers of certain age, for instance, will recall "stagflation." "Irrational exuberance" about a "new economy" will be familiar to anyone who lived through the "tech wreck" of the early '00s. And now -- thanks to a hyperventilating financial media on permanent red alert -- we're focused obsessively on the "meltdown" of the housing market while wringing our hands over commodities "speculators" who are wreaking havoc with the price of everything from natural gas to corn.
Sorry for all the scare quotes there. They just seem appropriate during a period when financial news seems to be morphing into supermarket tabloid fodder. What's next? Angie J. leaves Brad P. for Alan G?
Jokes aside, I certainly don't mean to suggest that near-term events don't matter; they do. Agriculture concern Monsanto (NYSE: MON ) and Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN ) have tacked on fat and happy gains over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, the economically sensitive likes of Target (NYSE: TGT ) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD ) -- not to mention the Dow-tracking Diamonds ETF (NYSE: DIA ) -- have notched steep declines over that period.
That said, focusing on the latest apocalyptic headlines is no way to become a successful investor. Indeed, Target and Home Depot have staged impressive comebacks over the last month or so. At any rate, dodging the sort of macro-level bullets that have rocked the market lately is a virtually impossible task.
But the corollary to that -- and this is where the news gets good for intelligent, long-term investors -- is that volatility really does create opportunity. Juicy cases in point: Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) -- two fine firms with years-long track records of cranking out loads of free cash flow and growing top-line revenue -- are now trading well below their respective 52-week highs.
The world according to GARP
Profitable, growth-oriented companies trading at steep discounts to their worth are what rock-solid retirement-ready nest eggs are built on -- and this market is providing them for the taking.
Not coincidentally, those are precisely the kinds of "growth at a reasonable price" (or "GARP") firms we've tapped for the real-money, set-and-forget portfolio that powers the Fool's new Ready-Made Millionaire service.
Preserving capital while pursuing growth is our reason for being, and our portfolio has been Steady-Eddie during turbulent times, tacking on more than $9,000 during two highly volatile months. All of our stock picks have handily bested the market, too, with our biggest gainer rising more than 25% since we purchased it.
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Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Ready-Made Millionaire service and doesn't own any of the stocks mentioned. eBay is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation, while Home Depot is an Inside Value choice. The Fool's strict disclosure policy loves the smell of profits in the morning.