Anyone who had recently invested in real estate would most likely agree that the phrase "dirt cheap" carries a new and enhanced meaning today. In the same vein, we would argue that our top 25 dividend growth stocks based on the potential for five-year estimated annual total returns are dirt cheap. Consequently, we believe that most of the bad news is already priced in, and therefore, the opportunity to buy low is the best it's been since 1997.
Negative Sentiment Focused on the Macro
Mainstream media, the markets, and it seems the entire world, is obsessively focused on numerous macro-oriented headwinds. This has led to extreme pessimism and fear-driven behavior on the part of investors. Moreover, this has caused some of the highest quality companies on the planet to become cheaper than they have been in decades, and more importantly, we would argue cheaper than they deserve to be. There certainly is a lot of bad news; on the other hand, there is always a lot of bad news for markets to deal with. This gives credibility to the old stock market adage: "The market climbs a wall of worry."
Wall Street's Walls of Worry During the 20th and 21st Centuries
Let's take a brief journey down memory lane and list and highlight some of the most memorable crises during the 20th and 21st centuries. We will start with the panic of 1901 that caused the first stock market crash. Next was the 1907 Bankers' Panic leading to numerous bank failures. Then the Sherman Antitrust Act brought us the panic of 1910 to 1911. Also, in 1910 the Shanghai China Rubber Market collapsed leading to numerous bank failures in China. And, of course, in 1929 we had the Great Depression and the catastrophic Stock Market Collapse.
Things were pretty benign for a while until 1973 brought us the oil crisis which caused the 1973 to 1974 market collapse that eventually spread to a banking crisis in the United Kingdom. Calendar year 1982 brought us the Mexican Weekend and the famed Latin American debt crisis that declared all of Latin American debt unmanageable. Then in 1983 Israel nationalized its four largest banks after they collapsed. Calendar year 1987 brought us Black Monday and the largest one-day percentage decline in stock market history. This was followed by the United States Saving & Loan crisis a few years later from 1989 to 1991. And in between then and 1990, the Japanese asset price bubble collapse made worldwide front page news.
Sweden and other Scandinavian countries followed suit with their own banking crisis during the early 1990s. Calendar years1992 to 1993 brought us Black Wednesday where the British government was forced to remove the British sterling from the ERM (the European Exchange Rate Mechanism), which incidentally made currency speculator George Soros a billionaire by shorting the sterling. Then we had another Mexican crisis in 1994 and 1995 with the devaluation of the peso. But not to be outdone by Mexico we had the 1997 - 1998 Asian Financial Crisis that devalued their currencies and threatened banks all across Asia raising fears of an economic worldwide meltdown due to financial contagion. Then, and finally, the 20th century ended with the 1998 Russian financial crisis and the devaluing of the ruble and Russia defaulting on their debt.
This brought us into the 21st century where in early 2000 and 2001 we had the Turkish Crises and the Argentine Crises. But even more memorably, the 2001 U.S. recession brought us the dot-com collapse which abruptly ended the infamous irrational exuberant period that started in 1995. And, of course, we are still reeling from the 2007 to 2010 financial crisis which is easily the mother of today's pessimism. And finally, we are now faced with the European sovereign debt crisis that we are all worried about today.
This has only been a brief listing and look at many of the crises of the 20th and 21st centuries. There were many more in previous centuries, and there will certainly be many more to come. However, through it all, the world and all the world economies have found ways to survive and even prosper. Perhaps most importantly of all, the one thing that each of these crises has in common is the creation of massive wealth and numerous millionaires and billionaires who had the courage and foresight to invest appropriately. We don't believe it's smart to bet against the indomitable human spirit.