Standard & Poor's research shows that consumer staples, utilities, health care, and financials outperform the market 80% to 90% of the time during recessions. As my Foolish colleagues Tim Hanson and Brian Richards point out, this outperformance is due to their reliability and healthy dividend policies.

Among large caps, this strategy held up extremely well during the last recession: Most of the top performers -- including Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Abbot Labs (NYSE:ABT) -- were defensive dividend payers.

With that in mind, I used our new CAPS screening tool to discover which defensive stocks our 115,000-member CAPS investment community loves most.

These stocks have:

  • Market capitalizations greater than $10 billion.
  • Dividend payments.
  • Four- or five-star ratings from our CAPS community (from a max of five).

Remember, since we first began collecting data in November 2006, CAPS' five-star companies outperformed the market with an average gain of 12.1% annually, while four-star stocks excelled by 7.1% annually.

Company

Share Price

Sector

Market Cap (in Billions)

Dividend Yield

Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD)

$68.11

Consumer Goods

$49.0

2.2%

AT&T (NYSE:T)

$30.97

Technology

$182.4

5.2%

Kraft (NYSE:KFT)

$32.80

Consumer Goods

$49.8

3.3%

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD)

$65.67

Services

$73.5

2.3%

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK)

$48.44

Health Care

$124.9

4.3%

Data from Motley Fool CAPS and Yahoo! Finance as of Aug. 8.

Of course, screens are merely a first step in the stock-selection process. As Miguel de Cervantes -- whose overly idealistic Don Quixote flails impulsively after unachievable dreams -- reminds us, "Diligence is the mother of good fortune." Come and join us on Motley Fool CAPS to dig into these companies further. Let our 115,000-strong (and counting) CAPS community help you polish your portfolio.

Further well-armored Foolishness:

At the time of publication, Ilan Moscovitz owned shares of Abbot. GlaxoSmithKline and Kraft are Income Investor selections. Wal-Mart is an Inside Value pick. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.