The events unfolding in Japan over the past several days are of tragically epic proportions. The human and economic tolls are both staggering and impossible to fully put into words. Our hearts go out to all those suffering.
But, and I say this with all due respect and well-wishing to those suffering in Japan, the market's reaction to the events in Japan has created potentially extreme buying opportunities in Japanese stocks and in the nuclear sector.
Here's why you should be paying attention -- and readying your wallets.
News sites and networks are practically choking themselves on the flood of mixed information swirling around the status of Japan's stricken nuclear facilities. The news is flying fast, and the future is very uncertain. No one knows the potential short-term and long-term environmental impacts of a potential meltdown. Stocks have been drubbed as a result. The Japanese stock market fell 11% last night following a 6% drop the day before. U.S. stocks have also taken a spill, while stocks with even the most remote connections to nuclear power have been absolutely crushed.
Sound familiar? It should. The market's spastic reaction to Japanese stocks and all things nuclear is an echo of the BP (NYSE: BP ) oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. Like the BP crisis, there was great initial uncertainty about the environmental impact. Like BP, politicians and regulators were quick to raise red flags about safety and question the permitting of new projects. And, like BP, stocks that had anything even remotely to do with drilling in the Gulf of Mexico were tarred and feathered.
And what has happened since the depth of the BP crisis? Not only did the once-hyped story wash out of the news cycle over several months, but investors who had the nerve, patience, and long-view mentality reaped huge profits on all things Gulf. Nearly every stock that was pounded has substantially recovered. Even Transocean (NYSE: RIG ) , which owned and operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, has risen 88% off its lows. BP itself is up 68%. Buying at the point of peak uncertainty paid off in spades.
Again, I don't wish to make light of either this tragedy or the one in the Gulf of Mexico. But, as level-headed investors who invest against the headlines, we must stay ready to dive into the pool during times of extreme uncertainty. This is one of those times.
Here are three opportunities that should be on your Watchlist right now.
Opportunity 1: Global Japanese companies
Rooting out opportunities in Japan is almost a no-brainer after its market tumbled 11% last night. Yes, there is great uncertainty around the nuclear situation and Japan's economy has been dealt a very real short-term blow. But, as any experienced investor will tell you, short-term sell-offs can easily produce long-term gains for those willing to go against the grain.
Take Toyota (NYSE: TM ) , whose shares traded today 16% below a recent 52-week high. Obviously, a one-two punch of a terrible short-term environment for the Japanese consumer and temporarily crippled manufacturing capabilities will curtail short-term results. But keep perspective: roughly 70% of Toyota's vehicle sales take place outside of Japan. Toyota's coffers are stuffed with cash, which would allow it to easily ride out any storms, and it is still well-positioned to capitalize on an eventual recovery in U.S. vehicle sales.
Opportunity 2: Uranium plays
Uranium prices have dropped like radioactive stones over the past couple of days. Naturally, uranium producers' stocks have fallen in tow. This morning, Cameco (NYSE: CCJ ) , which is among the world's largest producers of uranium, opened off 27% over the past five days. That's a whopping haircut, but still less than the hits taken by small fries like Denison Mines (AMEX: DNN ) , which is off 34% over the same time period and 11% today alone as I write.
This too shall pass. Will demand for uranium shrink? Hardly. Sure, there's the usual back-tracking and second-guessing around nuclear plants and permitting taking place after a scary period, but an already massive base of demand will continue to figuratively fire on all cylinders. Meanwhile, surging energy demand in countries like Russia and China will continue to create long-term demand growth for this hot commodity.
I don't pretend to know uranium producers very well, especially Denison, but their massive stumble means I need to ramp my learning curve on them in a hurry. Conservative opportunists should Cameco a very close inspection.
Opportunity 3: Nuclear energy producers
Nuclear operators the world over have been dragged down over concerns about how the political and regulatory fallout of the nuclear situation in Japan could curtail expansion plans.
But not only will these diverse, massive operators continue to thrive based solely on their existing assets, but fears of nuclear permits being yanked are almost certainly overblown. Again, remember the Draconian reaction of politicians and regulators toward offshore drilling following the BP spill and the subsequent cooling of tongues.
Southern Co. (NYSE: SO ) and Exelon (NYSE: EXC ) stand out as two intriguing names that have traded off a bit on the market's tumults. Exelon, in particular, has been hit hard and offers big upside. Exelon might be the largest nuclear power producer in the U.S., but about 1/3 of its power generating capacity comes from sources other than nuclear. For that matter, the company operates regulated utilities which offer very consistent cash flow and, frankly, have no real exposure to the drama you're seeing on television. Put it all together with a 5% dividend yield and a valuation that already assumes paltry growth, and you're looking at a bargain.
Get these stocks on your watchlist
I don't think stocks at-large are cheap, but this crisis has created some knock-on, panic-driven opportunities that long-view investors might do very well to exploit.
As Warren Buffett is fond of saying, "be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful." Follow his sage advice and get these stocks on Your Watchlist today.