As TheStreet's Jim Cramer once said, "Every once in a while, the market does something so stupid it takes your breath away."

The latest example of the market's breathtaking stupidity occurred on Thursday, when the stock of defense giant Raytheon (RTN) - Get Report got crushed in the wake of a third-quarter earnings report that was actually quite impressive. That's your signal to pounce and pick up shares of this intrinsically strong investment for a bargain.

Raytheon on Thursday announced third-quarter earnings that exceeded analysts' estimates. The missile maker even boosted its guidance, but none of this was good enough to suit Wall Street.

Raytheon's adjusted earnings per share reached $1.79, a year-over-year increase of 22%, while revenue increased 4.3% to $6.03 billion. Analysts had expected Raytheon's adjusted EPS to rise 13% and revenue to increase 4.4%.

Raytheon issued guidance for revenue growth in 2017 of 3% to 5%, in line with the consensus estimate of 4.3%. Management also raised its full-year EPS outlook to a range of $7.28 to $7.38, up from previous guidance of $7.13 to $7.33, but slightly less than the analyst consensus of $7.41.

In what so far has been a lackluster earnings season for the S&P 500, Raytheon's scorecard should have stood out as a solid performance, but traders took a different tack and clobbered the stock. Raytheon's stock on Thursday closed down 3.5%, plunging below its 50-day average.

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Raytheon continues to boast numerous strengths that make it a superb long-term growth investment; you should view Thursday's impetuous selloff as an early holiday gift and pick up shares at a discount.

Raytheon is the maker of the Paveway laser-guided bomb, the Patriot missile and the Iron Dome missile defense system in Israel. The company also provides the electronic "guts" and sensors for unmanned aerial vehicles.

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As the U.S. military shifts to autonomous weapons guided by artificial intelligence and sensors, Raytheon is positioned to reap the lion's share of the spoils. In addition to the Pentagon, the company boasts clients around the world.

Raytheon in September snagged a $5.6 billion contract with Poland to upgrade its Patriot missile-defense shield, with more lucrative NATO deals in the works. New orders continue to fill the company's coffers, as global defense spending maintains its upward trajectory. The company's year-to-date operating cash flow from continuing operations was $1.7 billion in 2016, compared with $1.5 billion for the comparable period in 2015.

If you're looking for growth opportunities in a shaky equity market, the aerospace/defense sector shines right now. This week, defense stalwarts Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman all reported third-quarter earnings that beat analysts' expectations.

Raytheon is especially appealing because of its engineering prowess, born of its legacy as a Boston-area technology firm. Founded in 1922 and based in Waltham, Mass., the company's first product was en electron tube that its scientist founders christened raytheon (Greek for "light of the gods"). The company was a key defense contractor throughout World War II and the Cold War; it's now the world's largest maker of guided missiles.

By creating value-added products embedded with sophisticated proprietary technology, Raytheon can charge the sort of premium that eludes most companies, even defense contractors. RTN's profit margin is 9.0%, compared with an average of 6.4% for the aerospace/defense sector.

Early in Friday's session, Raytheon was trading at $136.08. The average 12-month price target from analysts who cover the stock is $156.06. That suggests shares could gain 15% in the next year. Buy Raytheon with both hands, before investors wake up to the company's durable value and the stock bounces back.


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John Persinos is an investment analyst at Investing Daily. He's also a defense analyst with the aerospace consultancy Teal Group. At the time of publication, Persinos owned stock in Raytheon and Boeing.