Many investors are panicking at the prospect of yet another drop in the stock market. If you've got your eyes focused on your long-term goals, however, now's a great time to pick up promising stocks at bargain prices.

Most of the time, the market doesn't let you have your cake and eat it too. If you like companies with the potential for explosive growth, you generally have to deal with pricey valuations to buy shares. Value investors, on the other hand, are often left taking their chances buying falling knives that have big question marks in their future.

That's what makes stocks so interesting right now -- it's possible to get the best of both worlds. If you've been on the sidelines, waiting for the right moment to get back into the market, you're probably finding more interesting opportunities than you've seen in a long time.

Growth at reasonable prices
To get a sense of the range of stocks out there, I ran a simple screen of large-cap companies expected to grow earnings at least 30% per year over the next five years, with stocks trading at P/E multiples of 15 or less. Here are some results:




Growth Estimate

ArcelorMittal (NYSE:MT)




Boeing (NYSE:BA)




Halliburton (NYSE:HAL)




BT Group (NYSE:BT)




Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW)




Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM)




Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS)




Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Now I'll be the first to admit that screens like this don't give me 100% confidence by themselves. P/E ratios have their shortcomings and don't always reflect a company's true financial condition. And rosy growth estimates often wither on the vine, especially when the economy slows.

But there are encouraging things about the results of this screen, both for these stocks in particular as well as for the economy on the whole. Low P/E ratios and high growth estimates by themselves are questionable, but paired they provide a margin of safety over growth stocks trading at loftier multiples. At least if anticipated growth turns out to be overly optimistic, you haven't paid through the nose for it.

Moreover, the results show pockets of strength across the business spectrum. As you might expect, energy and materials stocks made up a decent fraction of the companies from this screen. But they didn't dominate the results: Stocks from a range of industries passed the test. That suggests that despite the challenges the economy faces now, you can still find companies that are taking advantage of the tough conditions and are demonstrating a competitive advantage over their rivals.

The best defense is a good offense
That underlying strength should help you cut through the current gloom that hangs over investors. Stocks you pick up when the prevailing mood is worry and pessimism will often prove to be your best long-term performers. And while there's no guarantee that promising stocks won't fall in value after you buy them, for your financial goals that are far in the future, buying unappreciated companies at bargain prices can help you cash in on your dreams.

In times like these, it's completely understandable if you're nervous about committing more of your hard-earned money to the stock market. By focusing on stocks that give you both growth and value, you're getting the best of both worlds. But if past experience holds true this time around, it's a limited-time offer -- so don't wait too long.

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