Of all insight I've heard over these few crazy months, the most telling came from an investor who appeared on CNBC last fall and, being entirely serious, advised, "There're only two positions to be in right now: cash and fetal."

I get it. Even with the recent rally, it's ugly out there. Many companies that overleveraged their balance sheets are permanently impaired and will likely never fully rebound. Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) comes to mind. We had an unprecedented boom; now we're in the middle of an unprecedented bust. That's how markets work.

Even so, history tells us time and time again that market panics and forced sell-offs indiscriminately throw the good out with the bad. The frenzy over financial markets and the "sell-now-ask-questions-later" mood of global investors are providing bargain-hunting investors with the sort of opportunities we haven't seen in decades.  

Using the wisdom of our 135,000-member-strong CAPS community, I've hunted down a few dirt cheap, high-quality companies. Have a look:

Company

Recent Share Price

Forward P/E Ratio

5-Year

Expected Growth Rate

TTM Return on Equity

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating  
(Out of 5)

Stryker (NYSE:SYK)

$40.16

12.28

12.53%

18.31%

1%

****

Verizon (NYSE:VZ)

$31.08

11.73

5.02%

12.89%

5.9%

****

Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT)

$74.59

9.07

10.92%

49.45%

3.1%

***

Data from Yahoo! Finance and Motley Fool CAPS, as of Aug. 16.

Let's break down the bullish argument for each one.

A closer look at Stryker
You'll be forgiven for not wanting to invest in the health-care industry these days. The words "death panel" evoke more fear than "nationalization" brought to the banking industry earlier this year.

Much of this fear, though, is entirely unfounded, and it creates opportunities in companies like Stryker. Stryker is a leader in the medical equipment industry, producing things like spinal implants, bone cement, and joint replacements for hips and knees.

Why does that make Stryker attractive? Three words: Aging baby boombers. Sad it may be, but hips blow out. Knees buckle. Bones break. Osteoporosis is a remorseless jerk. And that makes Stryker's market niche a stable and lucrative thing.

Perhaps better yet is its pristine balance sheet. With essentially no debt and over $6 per share in cash, there's little to worry about and plenty of room for growth through acquisition. As CAPS member MattH22004 writes:

When it comes to Stryker there's a lot for any investor to like. With the uncertainty in the financial markets, maybe the best thing the company has going for it is one of the strongest balance sheets in the entire health care industry. Currently, the[y] have 2.2 billion worth of cash sitting on the balance sheet to finance growth, through increased R&D or acquisition. They also have a paltry 21 million in debt coming due over the next five years, in these times you can't ask for much better than that.

A closer look at Verizon
I'll keep it simple with Verizon. I won't get into whether it's better than AT&T (NYSE:T), or any possible hookup with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). The allure of Verizon is far simpler: Even post-recovery, most economists see GDP growth hovering along at 1%-2% per year. And when the economy sputters and does a lot of nothing, companies with near-6% dividend yields, as Verizon has, should be wholeheartedly embraced. A 6% cash return can feel real good when the overall economy flatlines. Easy as that.

A closer look at Lockheed Martin
Capitalism isn't dead. We're sure about that. No matter, having 84% of sales come from the U.S. government -- where money can be created, side effects be damned -- is as enviable as it is scary. And that's allure No. 1 when it comes to Lockheed Martin.

Factor in a big plunge that's pushed shares down to 9 times forward earnings and a 3% dividend yield, and shares are getting the attention of our CAPS community. As jaimikpatel writes:

Regardless of all the public posturing by Congress and the White House to lower the defense budget, practically this will not happen. Long term, as the world returns to a multi-polar system where the U.S. only maintains a preponderance of power and not sole superpower (or hyperpower) status, defense budgets will only increase to ease concern at home, regardless of threat. Lockheed is a key player in many major subsectors within the defense industry, and will capitalize enormously from increased spending. Another plus is that maintenance and replacement of over-used equipment from Iraq and Afghanistan will be a major business in the coming decade. A stable dividend is the cherry on top        

Your turn to chime in
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For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Stryker is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Fool owns shares of Stryker, and has a disclosure policy.