Today I want to highlight three articles penned by esteemed fellow Fool Bill Mann, back when the Bear (that we all seem to have forgotten ever existed) was just beginning to bare its fangs.

Here they are:

Although these three pieces discuss different topics, trust me, they contain a common thread. Let's pull three quotes from the three pieces -- the first two microeconomic, and the third, the one most relevant to today's thought, macroeconomic.

  • "The key to superior long-term performance in equities is being able to say 'great company' when everyone else is saying 'dog,' or to know why a company that is valued highly is still one of the best investments available."

  • "The best time in the world to buy a great company is when everyone else is afraid of it, or hates it."

  • "I'd suggest to you that the time to be investing is when everyone else is running away in terror."

The problem with investing in the U.S. equity markets today is that despite the relatively anemic April we all just endured, there are really very few companies out there that anyone thinks are "dog-like" and few companies that anyone "hates." Okay, there's Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), but hating Microsoft is more of a religion than a valuation.

Which is why a recent Wall Street Journal article caught my eye with its banner headline "Europeans Lose Love for Stocks." Hmm, thought I. So Europeans are afraid of stocks, are they? They think the DAXX is populated with dogs?

Indeed, they are. And they do. Whereas in the U.S., despite the huge loss of wealth caused by our now hibernating bear, 89% of households still own mutual funds and 49% own individual stocks, in Europe the equivalent numbers are 10% and 14%, respectively. If those numbers do not bespeak fear of investing, I don't know what would. Why, even in the middle of the Great Depression, 20% of U.S. households still owned stocks.

Perhaps now would be a good time to consider "going European." Here are just a few ideas that I have my eyes on, and most of these are U.S.-listed stocks to boot:

Nokia (NYSE:NOK) -- I suspect you all know this one. But what about Italian furniture maker Natuzzi (NYSE:NTZ)? Fellow Fool Seth Jayson found this one at about the same time I first noticed it, and he recently wrote up a lovely piece describing the company's value potential.

One word to the wise is in order here: Investing in foreign stocks is not quite the simple matter that investing in U.S. stocks has become. For one thing, finding reliable research on the offerings is not a task to be undertaken by the faint of heart. Indeed, the investor information that some European companies put out can be downright sketchy. If I showed you the half dozen unbound pages of "information" I got in exchange for investing in Russian juice and dairy concern Wimm-Bill-Dann (NYSE:WBD) last year, for instance, I suspect you might just throw up your hands in dismay.

With limited information comes greater risk, of course. But Fools who are brave of heart may well decide that the undervaluation of the European market, and the possibilities it offers for greater rewards, justify taking that risk.

Fool contributor Rich Smith sold his shares of Wimm-Bill-Dann quite a while ago, and he owns no shares in any of the other companies mentioned in this article.