The common perception these days is that IT spending is going to take it on the chin. Symantec (NASDAQ:SYMC), which cut its third-quarter outlook, saw a decline in such spending in the last week of the quarter and expects that trend to continue going forward. Information storage giant EMC (NYSE:EMC) has also forecast a dimmer outlook for IT despite a strong performance in the just-ended period, and analysts are beginning to forecast long, deep declines.

EMC's shares have bounced off their recent lows, and they could go higher still even with the tough times expected ahead. EMC was able to grow revenue 7% over the year-ago period, with 19% growth achieved outside of the domestic market. In fact, nearly half of EMC's sales come from beyond U.S. borders, and it saw double-digit growth in each of its international markets. That's quite an achievement during bad times and suggests that any recession may not have as great of an impact on EMC as some might think.

With an 84% ownership position in cloud computing leader VMware (NYSE:VMW), EMC might be considered an extreme buying opportunity at the moment. The stake in VMware, which also turned in a strong quarterly performance, adds significant value to EMC. At VMware's $31 share price, that values EMC's position at over $10 billion. It also contributed one-third of EMC's revenues this quarter, or $472 million.

All-Star CAPS member Murkyl finds that the VMware stake and the future of storage look like a winning combination for EMC:

EMC is one of the worlds foremost data storage companies. Big firms buy EMC gear to store their data. Customers include Bank of America and Microsoft among others.

EMC still owns a 90% stake in [VMware]. At today's price that comes out to about 7.2 billion dollars. Back that out of EMC's current market cap of 21 billion and that leaves 13.8 billion. Subtract out their cash - debt (2.4 billion) and we have a 11.4 billion market cap.

I think the future looks good for storage companies. Everything is going online and going the streaming route. Video, music, video game downloads. All these hosted solutions require large amounts of storage and EMC is one of the players (including IBM and HP) that stand to gain a lot from this trend.

What's hot; what's not
EMC is just one of several stocks investors have been prowling the Internet for recently. Below are a few more hot stocks we've found by watching Google's search trends, which we then pair up with the ratings from the Motley Fool CAPS community. Over the first 20 months since we began tracking the collective intelligence, the data show that five-star stocks offer the best opportunities for investors, while the lowest-rated companies fared the worst. A five-star rating is the highest a company can get in CAPS.

By adding in some performance measures for the past year, we can get a handle on how they're expected to do in the future. Here are a few topping the search engine.

Stock

CAPS Rating

Return on Capital, Last 12 Months

Long-Term Growth Est.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

****

22.1%

20.8%

EMC

*****

7.4%

11.3%

General Motors (NYSE:GM)

*

(34.8%)

7.3%

PotashCorp (NYSE:POT)

****

32.9%

3.5%

Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM)

**

37.4%

37.6%

Sources: Google Finance; Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.

Commodities have been crushed, and PotashCorp has seen its price swoon in the process, but CAPS All-Star rbgibbons figures that with prices correcting, eventually Potash will be nicely situated because supplies will be limited:

Grain inventories at low levels. Prices are low, but should correct eventually. New Potash mines take a long time to come online, so supply growth is limited, while demand should be high. The combination gives the company pricing power that should make today's prices seem stupidly cheap.

What might not recover so easily is demand for automobiles, despite the drop in the price of oil. General Motors has been casting about for a solution, including buying rival Chrysler, but CAPS members like tyrant1033 have been fairly harsh in their assessment of the carmaker's future:

The company is technically insolvent (liabilities > tangible assets). This coupled with a declining market for gas guzzlers, and Toyota's increasing market share, and the overall market slow down will weigh on the company, creditors will come calling, and that will be the end for a great american brand. 

Also, with their track record, the chevy volt will be a disaster, and will probably be announced as delayed.

Seek and ye shall find
It takes more than a brief glimpse and a few All-Stars searching amongst the ruins of the market to make buy or sell decisions. So start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS where your opinion can still save the day. While there, you can 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.

Symantec is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. VMware is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

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