On August 14, 2008 Warren Buffett disclosed a position in NRG Inc. In reaction to this news the regular Buffett followers rejoiced, bid up shares of NRG, and awaited their fat returns. Shares have fallen 55% since August 27.
While Buffett's stake in NRG is so small compared to Berkshire's assets that it doesn't merit significant attention, it nonetheless serves as an excellent example of a U.S. company with tangible assets seeing its stock price collapse as economic uncertainty and investor fear unite. Another example of this is readily seen in Smithfield Foods Inc., which despite recent assurances on its liquidity situation has recently seen its share price plunge below its tangible book value.
Yet another example of the carnage striking down tangible America can be seen in Natural Resource Partners LP. With the recent addition of shares NRP insiders seem to be confident that coal royalties will continue to generate attractive payouts, but investors have voted with their feet and fled what is now one of the highest yielding MLP's in America.
The cyclicality of the wholesale power, poultry, and coal industries notwithstanding, the above companies seem to be pricing in a worst case scenario. This suggests that if the U.S. economy and financial markets can skirt complete disaster and/or investors refrain from catapulting precious metals higher and every other asset class severely lower, that some American assets are trading at depressed prices that are not reflective of their longer-term returns potential.
Greatly depressed or not, it goes without saying that in order to take advantage of attractive longer-term returns, investor's are required to select the companies that will withstand today's crunch.
Disclosure: No one at FallStreet.com has any financial position in any of the above companies.