Keeping your portfolio above water in these markets is no easy task. Companies can be too easily whipsawed by the whimsical musings of the Treasury Department or the Fed, making investors who've successfully navigated these rough waters rare indeed. A steady track record of staying afloat is even more impressive.

The All-Stars in our Motley Fool CAPS investor-intelligence database have found themselves particularly adroit at consistently steering their picks through these turbulent markets. Like some of the top professionals who view this as the best time in 35 years to invest in stocks. Let's look at some of the recent picks of this community's longtime investing mavens. If these All-Stars have been able to maintain their top status through bull and bear markets alike, their opinions on stocks for the months and years ahead might be worth watching.

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Autodesk (NASDAQ:ADSK)






UltraShort Oil & Gas ProShares (NYSE:DUG)






Precision Castparts (NYSE:PCP)






Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL)






US Bancorp (NYSE:USB)



Rowing against the current

As a model of conservative banking, US Bancorp has been able to negotiate the dangerous shoals of the financial sector better than others such as Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). The latest quarterly report indicated that those principles will continue to guide US Bancorp forward, and that acquisitions such as Downey Financial and PFF Bank will forestall the possibility of its own late-night meetings with the Treasury Department.

Yet even though it has been a generally conservative lender, investors were probably concerned over the quadrupling of its nonperforming assets, to $2.6 billion. For an unadventurous, staid institution, that's got to raise some investors' concerns about the bank's lending standards. Sure, it sidestepped much of the subprime loan debacle, and the recession has only gotten worse. But how careful were its standards if every class of loans in its portfolio -- from mortgages to credit cards -- saw a worsening condition?

CAPS member ldreher remains unperturbed by the situation, believing that the dividend is generally safe, and thinks the company will use its otherwise strong position to make other timely acquisitions:

I think they will be able to maintain a [reasonable] dividend (although a small cut wouldn't be a surprise) and be able to capitalize on opportunities to pick up assets at firesale prices …

Building up hopes
While I think that Hovnanian (NYSE:HOV) may be one of the worst stocks for 2009, there are glimmers of hope elsewhere in the homebuilding industry. It's possible that Toll Brothers, for example, with its better cash-to-debt position, will indeed be the company to lead the housing sector out of the wreckage.

Top-rated CAPS All-Star SwordAgain believes that Toll's decision to raise cash early on -- and hold onto it -- will now serve it well when push comes to shove:

[Toll Brothers] management has proven itself very astute. Raised cash early. Held onto cash. Only now is it beginning to entertain buying developments that have fallen into distressed sales that meet their quality requirements. Well positioned for an extreme recovery in their stock price, should the housing market begin to recover.

Ahoy there!
Whether you've been in the markets for years or are new to them, it pays to start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made, all from a stock's CAPS page. Then share your views with the CAPS community on whether these old salts have the wind in their sails.

US Bancorp is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick; Bank of America is a former one. Precision Castparts is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Autodesk. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns options on Autodesk, but does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.