Of all the insight I've heard over these 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. We had an unprecedented boom; now we're trying to crawl out 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 "sell-now-ask-questions-later" mood of global investors is providing bargain-hunting investors with the sorts of opportunities we haven't seen in decades. Use that to your advantage.

Using the wisdom of our 140,000-member-strong Motley Fool CAPS community, I've hunted down a few dirt cheap, high-quality companies. Have a look:


Share Price

Forward P/E Ratio


Expected Growth Rate

Return on Equity (TTM)

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating  
(out of 5)

Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM)







Annaly Capital (NYSE:NLY)







Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG)







Data from Yahoo! Finance and Motley Fool CAPS, as of Sept. 15.
P/E = price-to-earnings. TTM = trailing 12 months.

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

A closer look at Philip Morris International
How many companies actually raised their dividends over the past year? A few, I'm sure. But this "Great Recession" has been underlined by dividend aristocrats like General Electric (NYSE:GE) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) slashing their payouts, with many companies cutting dividends down to a big fat nothing.

So when I heard that Philip Morris International raised its quarterly dividend by 7.4% yesterday, I remembered why I love this company: In good times and bad, it has pricing power. Some of this comes from international exposure that flourishes when the U.S. dollar tanks, and some of it comes from a loyal, addicted customer base. As CAPS member poppycock2 writes:

sells the leading brands of cigarettes in many countries throughout the world where people are not as health conscious. This company generates tons of cash and is the leader in what it does. Should be an excellent stock for the long term. Pays high dividends and demand is rather inelastic, so if the economy tanks people will continue to smoke.

A closer look at Annaly Capital
If you remember the dramatic downfalls of Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) -- and who among us doesn't -- you can be forgiven for not wanting to touch Annaly Capital. The company, after all, loads up on Fannie and Freddie mortgage securities, piles on a decent amount of leverage, and milks the cash flow -- just like the Wall Street banks that blew up in 2008.

But often overlooked and misunderstood is that because of Fannie's and Freddie's government seizures, the bulk of Annaly's assets are effectively guaranteed by taxpayers, leaving interest rate swings as its only real risk exposure. Yet the company still sports a staggering 13.4% dividend yield, which, for the time being, looks wholly sustainable. Fear and confusion can be a wonderful thing in this market.

A closer look at Public Service Enterprise Group
The recession may be over. Technically, at least. Ben Bernanke says so himself. But the technical ending of a recession shouldn't cause you to become complacent, ignoring the very real risks still present in the economy. The end of a downturn doesn't necessarily mean the beginning of an upturn, and years of sluggish growth could easily be in store.

A good dose of stable, sturdy, high-dividend-paying stocks could do you well in the coming years. Utility giant Public Service Enterprise Group is one of them. With a 4.2% dividend yield -- not bad for an economy with interest rates at zero -- you're being paid a handsome sum for what's probably one of the most risk-averse industries you could ask for. As CAPS member financegooglecom writes:

PSE&G holds a tremendous about of assets. It's chief concern is making money, which it has done every year since it went public. It's neither overvalued, or painfully slow growing. It's the anchor of my portfolio. When things become volatile this stock goes up, when things go up this stock goes up. When is power consumption ever going to stop growing? How many computers are in your place? How many tv's? How many appliances and cell phones and stereos? There is no other commodity as necessary as electricity.

You take it from here
Have your own take on any of these companies? More than 140,000 investors use CAPS to share ideas and swap opinions. Click here to check it out and speak your mind. It's 100% free to participate.

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Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Philip Morris International, which isMotley Fool Global Gains selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.