October has been a brutal month for equities and a painful illustration of the Wall Street maxim that stocks tend to take the stairs up but the elevator down. Roughly 10 months of steady increases were erased in just a few trading days as the S&P 500 dove back toward a flat return so far for 2018.
Investors with a long-term mindset don't have any special ability to predict when a market bottom might be imminent. But they can take advantage of discounts on high-quality stocks when fear produces extra volatility like that.
With that approach in mind, let's take a look at a few impressive businesses that seem more attractive after the latest market decline.
Streaming into the holiday TV season
Netflix's (NASDAQ:NFLX) shares are well off their summer highs, but its streaming video business has never looked stronger. The company trounced management's subscriber growth targets last quarter, adding 7 million users around the globe, including over 1 million in the U.S., its most mature market. Profitability is marching up into the low double digits thanks to higher monthly prices and a trend toward more premium streaming plans.
Wall Street isn't excited about Netflix's surging debt, which CEO Reed Hastings has described as a necessary part of the streamer's desire to create a vast portfolio of original content. These shows and movies require significant up-front investments, and that's the main reason why cash flow is sharply negative today despite surging profits.
Still, its 10-year track record in the field has demonstrated a knack for directing cash toward projects that will accelerate growth and earnings. Investors who believe those positive trends will hold should be excited that Netflix is ramping up its spending pace right now.
A blue-chip income payer
Things are looking up for consumer products titan Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG). The owner of hit staple franchises like Gillette razors and Tide detergent posted its fastest sales growth in years last quarter, with gains nicely balanced between rising volume and higher average prices.
The spike suggests P&G might finally achieve the sales acceleration that management has been targeting for years through moves like its portfolio reboot and a dramatic restructuring of its supply chain and global manufacturing base. Executives have been telling investors during these initiatives that core growth and profit trends are stronger than they might seem due to temporary issues like foreign exchange swings and economic disruption in emerging markets. That optimistic reading is supported by P&G's recent return to market-share growth and could help this dividend giant produce solid long-term returns for income investors.
One of retail's biggest winners
Its shares had nearly doubled in 2018, but market volatility has made lululemon athletica (NASDAQ:LULU) stock a bit cheaper lately. That's good news for investors looking to buy quality growth.
The yoga-inspired apparel specialist has blown past its own sales goals in each of the last three quarters, including with a recent 25% revenue boost. These gains included a double-digit spike in the retailer's stores and a whopping 48% spike in the digital sales channel.
That e-commerce volume isn't hurting profitability at all. Instead, Lululemon saw operating profit soar higher by 6 percentage points last quarter to 18.5% of sales as its latest product releases resonated with its customer base.
New CEO Calvin McDonald and his executive team are hoping to expand that base in the years ahead to include more men and reach into geographies outside of the U.S. and Canada. Their target of $4 billion of annual sales by 2020 looks easily achievable right now after Lululemon raised its 2018 outlook in each of the last three quarters.