In this bull market, where are the bargain buys to be found?

Here's how I'm looking for cheap shares in an expensive market.

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Smiling couple looking at a phone at a bargain opportunity.

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We are indisputably in the midst of a bull market on the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO). Technical definitions aside, it's hard not to call 'bull… market' when the ASX 200 has hit multiple new record highs over the past month or two alone.

If you want a number to go off, the ASX 200 has gained an impressive 14.9% or so since the beginning of November 2023. That's more than one-and-a-half times the index's average gain for a year, let alone five months.

Most investors can't help but love a bull market. After all, who doesn't enjoy the feeling of becoming wealthier, even if it's only 'on paper'?

But it does make the whole investing process a little more taxing, both mentally and financially. It's harder to buy ASX shares, again both financially and mentally, when their prices have appreciated meaningfully. After all, we're all taught to 'buy low and sell high, not buy even higher.

However, I would argue that there are almost always bargains to be found in any market, especially for small, nimble retail investors.

So how does one find these said bargains?

How to find ASX share bargains in a bull market

I think there are two strategies that investors can use to find bargain stocks during a bull market.

The first is to look for cheap ASX shares on a sector-by-sector basis. The big money funds that tend to move the stock market day to day and week to week are always looking to 'rotate money out of what they might perceive as poor sectors into more lucrative ones.

We, as small investors with long time horizons can take advantage of this.

For example, right now, real estate investment trusts (REITs) and gold stocks are hot. But mining and energy shares? Less so.

Iron ore miners like BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP) and Fortescue Ltd (ASX: FMG) have lost quite a lot of steam in recent months, perhaps thanks to falling iron ore prices and expectations of a slowing global economy. Ditto with energy stock Woodside Energy Group Ltd (ASX: WDS).

Now I'm not saying that I would buy any of these shares right now. But investors seem to be rejecting these companies in favour of others right now. As such, this would be an ideal hunting ground for a bargain.

Be greedy when others are fearful

The second way you can find an ASX bargain in my view is by looking for quality companies that have temporary issues. Many investors (particularly large fund managers) are impatient. If a company is having an issue that might be affecting its short-term sentiment or financials, it is often sold off, even if its long-term future still looks unchanged.

I think a good example of this right now is Telstra Group Ltd (ASX: TLS). Last year, Telstra disappointed the market by revealing that it would not be selling off some of its highest-quality assets that are housed in its InfraCo Fixed division. These include fibre optic cables and data centres.

Many investors seemed disappointed by this news, and the company has missed out on the recent share market bull run as a result. Telstra shares fell from a high of $4.46 in June last year to the ~$3.80 levels we see today.

However, as a Telstra shareholder, I am happy to forgo a short-term sugar hit from selling off these jewels and am happy that the company still owns and will continue to profit from them. As such, I think Telstra is an example of a cheap ASX share and a bargain buy in the current bull market.

Foolish takeaway

Sure, bull markets and record ASX highs do make investing more difficult for thrifty investors. But there are ways to find cheap ASX shares regardless. You just might need to look a little deeper and think outside the box.

Motley Fool contributor Sebastian Bowen has positions in Telstra Group. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has positions in and has recommended Telstra Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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