The recession of the late 2000s pummeled investors with huge losses in the Dow over multiple daily trading sessions. Wall Street was wondering "how low can it go?" During the string of catastrophic losses across the major market indexes, March 9, 2009, came and went - becoming the bottom of the financial panic that swept the country. (For more, see The 2007-08 Financial Crisis In Review.)
Many investors lost it all - or got our while they could. Some investors, however, were not thwarted by the markets and continued to make investments in spite of the panic-driven selling. Warren Buffett, who is arguably one of greatest investors of all-time, once said of his investing strategy, "We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful." Buffett and other bold investors were certainly able to take advantage of this stance during the late 2000s when most investors were either too fearful - or too broke - to be in the market. Here are five recession stocks picks and what they are worth today.
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1. American Express (NYSE:AXP)
Warren Buffett added to his American Express position in November, 2008. It hit a low of $10.26 during the week of March 2, 2009, but has since rallied to a 52-week trading range of $37.13 to $49.19, with a closing price of $43.57 on the last day of February, 2011. Interestingly, Buffett has been acquiring shares of American Express since the 1960s. At that time, the salad oil scandal threatened both the value and the reputation of American Express. The stock dropped 50% in a short period of time. Buffett, always one to buy when others are running scared, scooped up his initial shares, and has continued to add to the position over the years.
2. Ingersoll-Rand (NYSE:IR)
Ingersoll-Rand is an international supplier to transportation, manufacturing, construction and agricultural industries. Investors Warren Buffett and George Soros each hold positions in Ingersoll-Rand, which hit a low of $11.84 the week of March 2, 2009. Today it is trading under an average daily volume 4 million, with a 52-week range of $32.42 - $49.07, closing at $45.30 on February 28, 2011.
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3. USG Corporation (NYSE:USG)
USG manufactures building materials for the construction and remodeling industries. In November of 2008, Buffett made a $300 million investment in USG Corporation, maintaining his position as USG's largest shareholder with over 17 million shares. After adding to the position and publicly expressing confidence in USG Corporation, USG shares were up nearly 22%. Other big name investors, including Prem Watsa and Brian Rogers, hold sizable positions in USG, which reached its recession low of $4.29 in March 2009. It is currently trading in a 52-week range of $11.34-$25.59, closing at $17.14 at the end of February, 2011.
4. Costco Wholesale Corporation (Nasdaq:COST)
Costco operates an international chain of membership-based warehouses, selling brand name merchandise at low prices. Investors like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates have notable positions in Costco, which hit a low of $38.98 during the recession and now trades in a 52-week range of $53.41-$75.48, closing at $74.79 at the end of February, 2011. (For a related reading, check out Shopping For Grocery Store Dividends.)
5. Kraft Foods, Inc (NYSE:KFT)
Kraft Foods, Inc is the nation's largest food, beverage and confectionery corporation, home to well-known brands like Kraft, Cadbury and Maxwell House. Investors including Warren Buffett, Prem Watsa, and Bill Ackman hold positions in Kraft. Kraft hit a recession low of $21.62 late February 2009, and has since steadily climbed to its 52-week trading range of $27.49-$32.67, rounding out February's trading with a close of $31.84.
The Bottom Line
The investors mentioned here are by no means typical; rather than investing in terms of 100s of shares, these heavy hitters are making bets in terms of tens of thousands or even millions of shares. Warren Buffett and others continued to buy - or go long - the stock market throughout the recession of the late 2000s. Many of the bets have paid off for Buffett and other investors who took advantage the market lows. (For more, check out Warren Buffett's Best Buys.)
At the time of writing, Jean Folger did not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article.