When it comes to investing in the stock market, it pays to be skeptical. Not only should you not believe everything the analysts tell you, you often also have to discount what the companies themselves are telling you.

Going against the crowd can pay off handsomely. Some of the market's legendary investors have been contrarians: Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, John Neff, and Marty Whitman. Like baseball's greatest place hitter, "Wee Willie" Keeler, contrarians "hit 'em where they ain't."

When the crowd abhors a stock, a contrarian wants to look more closely at it. Similarly, when the masses crowd into one, the skeptical thinker believes it's time to move on.

A new breed of contrarian
Today I'm looking at a new breed of contrarian, the Motley Fool CAPS "skeptic." Skeptics don't think like most investors. They're willing to see the downside potential of a stock, as well as the upside. CAPS skeptics have rated more stocks as underperforming the market than outperforming it. Being top-rated CAPS players means they're right far more often than not, and when they mark a stock to outperform, perhaps we ought to take notice.

Here are some recent picks from five of the top CAPS skeptics:


CAPS Rating


Player Rating





American Oriental Bioengineering (NYSE:AOB)








Thornburg Mortgage (NYSE:TMA)








The stocks above are not automatic buys. Just as a list of their worst stocks would not be a list of stocks to short. This list requires a little more thinking and drilling down into the financial statements than that. But it's a place to start.

In hog heaven
Traditional Chinese supplement provider American Oriental suffered a big setback in June when it announced a huge, dilutive stock offering and saw its shares drop by double-digit amounts. But the company has been using its cash to make acquisitions, which are a large part of its growth story. Since going public in the U.S. in 2005, revenues and profits have nearly tripled.

The herbalist's acquisition strategy is what CAPS All-Star jester112358 sees as setting it apart from others in the field, like NBTY (NYSE:NTY). "They are integrating recent acquisitions nicely. With increasing failures of western medicine I expect a growth market both here and in China for their products."

The company's leading position is what makes drchart enamored of American Oriental; throw in good fundamentals to boot:

The dominant Chinese herbal medicine player in China. 'Nuf said. Top 10 most profitable co in a hot market. Check out the financials-unbelievable.

But not everyone backs the company. All-Star KenN513 considers what the company pedals as little more than snake oil:

As Longhorn Leghorn used to say "snake, I say, snake oil!" This company has great numbers on paper. A very close examination of the company itself begins to smell bad.

Seeing past the obvious
Contrarians try to see past the headlines. They know that just beyond the wrack and ruin of the storm clouds lies a shimmering morning. Conversely, the sun can't shine forever, even though the crowds may think the green grass and blue skies go on and on. In the meantime, drop by CAPS and tell us which stocks bring out the contrarian in you.