Fresh market calls are the financial media's talisman. Pundits can metaphorically wave these lucky charms in front of the cameras to ward off any recollection of their last failed round of prognostication. Market leadership "rotates," you see, and unless you ride the merry-go-round of punditry and its 24-hour opinion cycle, you won't be able to keep up as the so-called experts lurch from one viewpoint to the next.

Remember when the pundit class was gaga over Dow 36,000? How 'bout Ben Bernanke's take on a housing bubble? There wasn't one, he indicated, back when he was nominated to become chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Even Alan Greenspan sounded similarly soothing tones a year before, proclaiming that "while local economies may experience significant speculative price imbalances, a national severe price distortion seems most unlikely in the United States, given its size and diversity."

Rearview mirror
I’m not here to take easy potshots at folks from whom I could also glean pearls of genuine wisdom. In truth, making market calls is a tough mountain to climb -- particularly when Wall Street is scaling a wall of worry over what it seems to be betting is a financial apocalypse.

Who'da thunk, for instance, that after the lengthy run-up of small-caps during much of this decade, their recent breather would prove so short-lived?

Year to date, the small-cap-centric Russell 2000 -- home to the likes of Chico's FAS (NYSE:CHS) and JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) -- has indeed declined by roughly 10%. But that still looks pretty strong compared with the performance of big-brother benchmark the Russell 1000, whose components include such titans as ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP). The latter index has shed some 19% over the same period.

Follow the leader?
The moral of the story? As Shakespeare said, short-term market calls are subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous markets -- like those we've been living through lately.

OK, the Bard only said part of that, but the still message rings true. If pundits were actually held accountable for their market calls, the typical tenure of the typical prognosticator would be shorter than a two-year-old's attention span -- particularly when it comes to navigating speculative, fearful markets like the one we've been experiencing for more than a year now.

Far be it from me to make a market call, but I suspect we're on the cusp of what I'll dub -- just 'cause I like poetry -- a season of reason. I think we've seen the mirror image of the excesses that led to the market collapse earlier this decade, with so much doom and gloom currently priced in to the market that some stocks seem priced not just for a deep recession, but a nasty sequel to the Great Depression.

For long-term investors resistant to end-times rhetoric, that means bargains abound. Cases in point: Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), fat, financially sound cash cows that sport below-industry P/Es, despite double-digit earnings-growth prospects over the next five years. IBM (NYSE:IBM) fits that very attractive valuation profile, too.

Get 'em while they're cold
Savvy investors know that it pays to pay close attention to proven companies trading with moribund multiples. They can put you on the path to long-haul investment riches. Not coincidentally, those are precisely the sorts of companies we've tapped for the portfolio of Ready-Made Millionaire, a lineup that the Fool has seeded with a cool $1 million of its own cold, hard cash.

RMM will reopen to new members in just a few weeks. Between now and then, we invite you to learn more about our service and take advantage of a completely free special report, The 11-Minute Millionaire. The report is designed to help you make the most of erratic and rational markets -- and to provide the scoop on the Fool's newest service. Click here to give it a go, and we'll be sure to give you a heads up when Ready-Made reopens.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Ready-Made Millionaire service and doesn't own any of the securities mentioned. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value choice. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy right here.