Of all the insights I've heard over these few 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 -- exploding financials like AIG (NYSE:AIG) come to mind. We had an unprecedented boom; now we're in the middle 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. Amid the frenzy over financial markets and the "sell-now-ask-questions-later" mood of global investors, opportunities are being created for bargain-hunting investors like we haven't seen in decades.

Using the wisdom of our 130,000-member-strong CAPS community, I've hunted down a few dirt cheap, high-quality companies. Have a look:


Recent Share Price

Forward P/E Ratio

5-Year Expected Growth Rate

Trailing-12-Month Return on Equity

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating  
(5 Max)








Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)














Data from Yahoo! Finance and Motley Fool CAPS, as of May 7.

All three are well-established, large-cap stocks. Let's break down the bullish argument for each one.

Bidding for value
A lot of people hate eBay, and that's most of the reason you -- as a value-seeking investor -- should be intrigued by it. Find any message board about this stock, and you'll be inundated with stories about inept management, unhappy customers, and the effects of a dwindling economy -- all bad things, and probably true, to be sure.

Mind you, a company can get away with a certain amount of misbehavior when its moat is a mile deep. Just ask Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). (When was the last time anyone said something good about Windows?) The effectiveness of eBay's moat -- particularly the network effect -- is both massive and virtually impenetrable.

Moreover, eBay's long-term strengths are barely reflected in its share price. As CAPS member joesao recently wrote:

eBay is currently priced at 6.6x EV/FCF (that is, the value of the business ex-cash divided by the 2bn of free cash flow it generates a year).

This multiple implies that, if you discount future free cash flows at 10%, they decline about 5% per year forever. Think about that for a moment. That's what the market is saying. This for a business whose Skype and Paypal are growing like crazy, and whose core auction/fixed price marketplace business will likely keep growing, albeit at a slower pace than in the past. 

So you're getting growth for a negative price here. This is a screaming bargain.

Although eBay has climbed since late March when the pitch was made, its enterprise value to free cash flow (EV/FCF) sits around 9.5 -- still bargain territory.

Can't beat the real thing
And you want to talk about moats? How about Coca-Cola's? When Warren Buffett was asked last month about tangible-common equity (a measure used primarily for banks), his answer was simple: "Coca-Cola has no tangible common equity. But they've got huge earning power."

What he essentially means is that Coke's biggest asset isn't one on its balance sheet -- it's the brand-name power and consumer awareness that makes Coke such an immensely powerful company. As CAPS member Macintosh100 wrote earlier this year:

Wide Moat. Competitive advantage. Recognizable brand the world over. Recession or no recession, I know too many people who start their day with a diet coke instead of ... coffee. That is not going to change.

With a dividend yield approaching 4% and at just 12.9 times forward earnings, you're getting a fantastic company for not a lot of money. It doesn't get much better than that.

Kind words from just about everyone
While we're on the topic of superwide moats, Google recently received praise from Buffett and Charlie Munger, who said of the search-engine giant, "I've probably never seen such a wide moat. ... Their moat is filled with sharks!"

CAPS member Brookly1106 had some equally flattering words about how strong Google has become, as well as its future potential: "I think people underestimate how infectious Google is, maybe because of a lack of understanding. Let me say as an IT guy, that Google is on track to be maybe the biggest and most ubiquitous US company in our generation (think [General Electric (NYSE:GE)]) even from where it is now."

Besides Google's brand-name dominance that virtually guarantees it'll rule the Internet for the foreseeable future (sorry Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), its financials are equally impressive. With zero debt, nearly $18 billion in cash and short-term investments, and a cash-cow business model that creates an enormous amount of shareholder value, you could probably do worse than bet on this company in the coming years.

Your turn to chime in
Have your own take on any of these companies? More than 130,000 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.

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. eBay is a Stock Advisor selection. eBay, Coca-Cola, and Microsoft are Inside Value picks. Coca-Cola is also an Income Investor selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.