You know things are bad when the president takes the time to make a special speech to Congress or the American people.

Around this time last year, it was Mr. Bush talking about the potential for economic meltdown and problems at banks -- and we all know how that turned out. This month, it was Mr. Obama talking about the need for health-care reform.

The uncertainty about the future implied by such speeches also points to a potential area for profits -- if you're smart enough to look there.

No cheery consensus
I won't bore you with yet another round of quoting Warren Buffett's fearful/greedy saying. We all know that one. But here's one Oracle quote that's not as well-known: "You pay a very high price in the stock market for a cheery consensus."

Buffett wrote that in a Forbes article way back in 1979. Here's the quote in context of the longer article, which discussed why investment managers bought stocks when they were expensive, yet didn't when they were cheap:

A second argument is made that there are just too many question marks about the near future; wouldn't it be better to wait until things clear up a bit? You know the prose: "Maintain buying reserves until current uncertainties are resolved," etc. Before reaching for that crutch, face up to two unpleasant facts: The future is never clear; you pay a very high price in the stock market for a cheery consensus. Uncertainty actually is the friend of the buyer of long-term values.

What you missed
Last fall, "current uncertainties" were plentiful for financial stocks. Following a prime-time televised speech by President Bush addressing the issue last fall, there was plenty of time to make an investment in one or more financial stocks before things bottomed out last March. Those who did buy in were rewarded:


Return Sept. 24, 2008-March 9, 2009

Return March 9, 2009-Sept. 24, 2009

S&P 500



Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)



Capital One






US Bancorp (NYSE:USB)



Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC)



iShares Dow Jones US Financial Services Index



Where to look now
Today, there is "current uncertainty" swirling around health-care stocks, which probably started when President Obama began the debate last February.

How will these companies be affected by health-care reform? Will their products or services become more regulated, squeezing earnings? Heck, will they even still be in business?

Questions like those, and the uncertainty they represent, have kept share prices of many different health-care stocks from enjoying the same returns as the broad market since earlier this year:


Return since Feb. 24, 2009

S&P 500


Abbott Labs


Cardinal Health


Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)


Stryker (NYSE:SYK)


UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH)


Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund


Now, not every company in the health-care sector will turn into a multibagger in the future, just because that future is cloudy. But as Buffett pointed out, waiting for that cloudy future to clear up could lead us to miss out on some fantastic returns, just as it did for those who stayed out of financials over the last few months.

However, some health-care companies have significant challenges, like blockbuster drugs facing generic competition soon -- something Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) is facing with Lipitor. Other problems are more damaging, like Sequenom's questionable data. Others will be affected more by what eventually comes out of Congress, such as regulations affecting what health insurers such as Coventry Health Care can and cannot do. You'll need to do further research to separate the good from the not-so-good -- or the downright bad.

Those are the kinds of things we're looking at in Motley Fool Hidden Gems. Co-advisors Seth Jayson and Andy Cross, hand-picked by Tom Gardner to continue the service's outperforming ways, are using the "current uncertainty" surrounding health care to find the best stocks for you -- and for their real-money portfolio -- at attractive prices.

In fact, they've just picked two companies into which to invest real, hard cash. One of these, inVentiv Health, has "established itself as the quintessential one-stop-shop for Big Pharma and other companies in the health-care sector." To get the name of the other, along with exclusive access to a video showing the valuation process Seth followed when picking it, sign up for a free 30-day trial. There's no obligation. To get started, click here.

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Jim Mueller owns shares of J&J and Sequenom, but no other company mentioned. inVentiv Health is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. Coventry Health Care, UnitedHealth Group, and inVentiv Health are Stock Advisor recommendations. Pfizer, Stryker, and UnitedHealth Group are Inside Value selections. Johnson & Johnson is a Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of inVentiv Health and UnitedHealth Group. Our disclosure policy is one of the certainties of the Fool.