Did you just say "bull market"? Now? In the face of the biggest, snarliest bear since the Nasdaq dropped 80% between 2000 and 2002?

Yes ... and not just one bull market, but many. They're coming.

Bulls and trying times
There's a reason why you should be thinking about the next bull market, even during these periods of intense volatility: Today's inefficiencies are creating tomorrow's opportunities. See, right now, almost every media outlet and source that investors look to for guidance is either relentlessly negative or hopelessly out of touch. Efficient markets, on the other hand, require participants to think independently. But when the markets become volatile like they are now, most participants seem to think the exact same thing: "Holy crap!"

If you look at the business headlines from the past two months, you'll find that they essentially say exactly that.

This makes sense. Global stock markets tend to move more closely together whenever they're more volatile. There's not much underlying reason for this, except that "holy crap!" translates really neatly into dozens of different languages, whereas "on a return on invested capital basis, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is starting to look cheap" does not.

I'm sorry, did you say the market was going up?
Now, I don't know when the market will go up. What's more, current economic conditions, such as the correction in the formerly overextended housing market, offer significant headwinds. I'll be the first to admit that there's not much difference between "early" and "wrong."

But just because the stock market might not go up doesn't mean that there aren't sectors where demand is destined to increase, in ways that investors are underestimating. For example, does it not make sense that the upcoming economic stimulus package ought to be a boon for credit card companies such as American Express (NYSE: AXP) and MasterCard (NYSE: MA)?

Find more bull markets
But finding bull markets isn't necessarily about binary events. It comes from thinking about where demand functions will increase in ways that the market hasn't foreseen. You know how every financial show seems to have something about the great agricultural bull market, and inevitably includes Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (NYSE: POT)? I had the exact same thought ... in 2003. The stock's a nine-bagger since then, which is, oddly, why everyone is excited about it.

Looking for others? What about Cresud, a giant land owner in Argentina? Or what about hidden agricultural company DuPont (NYSE: DD)?

You have to be right about both parts of the equation: the demand, and whether others are thinking about it. Witness the destruction that's taken place among ethanol companies such as VeraSun Energy (NYSE: VSE) the past two years. Yes, these companies are early in their development, but the assumptions piled upon them during their IPO frenzies were unrealistic.  

Looking in industries with temporary investor despair is another way to uncover the next bull market. Ethanol companies, for example, are generally much better prospects now than they were when they were all over the media. As are the oil and gas drillers, by the way.

Several companies have been smoked in the aftermath of Schlumberger's (NYSE: SLB) warning that the upcoming months will be weak. The resulting beatings that certain companies in the sector have taken reflects a sudden fear that -- what? There won't be oil exploration anymore? In other words, are you willing to buy into a sector with the potential for a "weak 2008" but a strong 2009 to 2020?

But where to find such things?
Here's the bottom line: The recent turmoil, particularly in the small-cap market, has created more attractive opportunities for investors than I've seen in years. Our team at Motley Fool Hidden Gems is working to identify exactly those opportunities for our subscribers.

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Bill Mann is the advisor for the Hidden Gems small-cap newsletter. He's also a Pisces, which probably has something to do with his magical ability to misplace his keys. He owns none of the companies mentioned in this article. Cresud is a Global Gains recommendation. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.