The boom and bust in oil prices has mangled a lot of investment portfolios -- legendary oil investor T. Boone Pickens' BP Capital among them. For obvious reasons, anyone who produces oil has been hit hard as oil prices have fallen. Oil refineries like Valero (NYSE:VLO), though, could have hoped that such a fall in crude would reverse their fortunes, since gasoline prices tend to be stickier on the way down than crude. Not so this time. Even as crude plummeted, the margins that refiners made changing crude to refined products stayed tight.

Despite the continued tight times for refiners, members of the Motley Fool's CAPS community have stayed very positive on Valero. More than 4,000 members have weighed in with their expectations for the stock, and nearly 96% have been bullish. None of them, however, has been quite as on the money when it comes to Valero as buccayew, who has made two calls on Valero during his time on CAPS -- one outperform and one underperform -- and has been right both times, scoring more than 60 points.

buccayew is one of CAPS' All-Stars -- players with a rating of 80 or greater -- and he has managed an impressive stock-picking accuracy of more than 65% on his calls while racking up more than 1,600 points. Valero hasn't been his only great call. Here's a look at a few of his other prescient picks:

Company

Date Picked

Call

Points

CAPS Rating (5 max)

Unifi

11/7/06

Outperform

79

*

MBIA (NYSE:MBI)

2/12/08

Underperform

53

*

Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS)

2/5/08

Underperform

51

**

Data from CAPS.

So what is this investor looking at these days? Here are a few of his most recent calls on CAPS:

Company

Date Picked

Call

CAPS Rating (5 max)

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)

11/13/08

Underperform

****

Chico's FAS

11/11/08

Outperform

***

Cimarex Energy (NYSE:XEC)

11/3/08

Outperform

****

Data from CAPS.

While not all of these picks may pan out, they could be a good place to start some further research. I decided to take a closer look at Wal-Mart.

Playing the expectations game at Wal-Mart
Investors obviously believe that Wal-Mart will weather the current economic environment better than just about anyone else. Over the past year, the stock is up more than 10%, while the rest of the market has run for the hills. Fellow discount chain Target (NYSE:TGT) has shed more than 40% over the same period, and department stores like J.C. Penney and Macy's (NYSE:M) have fared even worse.

So why would we expect Wal-Mart to underperform now? For precisely the above reason. Investors already have high hopes baked into the stock price. As Wal-Mart bear SilverSliver99 pointed out last week in CAPS:

While this is a safe play, I don't think it's a very good play. This stock at best will sit at the same price. With a 1.7% dividend, a small upside and a lot of potential downside, you're better of putting your money in bonds or savings.

Despite the bearishness of buccayew and SilverSliver99, the vast majority of CAPS members that have weighed in on Wal-Mart have come down on the opposite side. rlloydevans recently came in with a positive view on the stock, and he seems to believe that the recession-fighting properties of the business are worth potentially paying a premium:

Walmart is the most efficiently run discount seller in the global marketplace. While most consumers will be cutting their spending the next several quarters while under the gloom of the recession, most will go shopping where their money goes farthest. That means Walmart. While other retailers will suffer, and not a few implode, Walmart will weather the current recession and come out much stronger, ready for another round of aggressive, worldwide expansion to drive future earnings.

So what's your take on Wal-Mart? Will it continue to outperform even in this recessionary environment or will it finally succumb to tough times? Get in the action by clicking over to CAPS, an absolutely free community that already has more than 120,000 stock pickers chipping in to find the best stocks out there.

More CAPS Foolishness:

Wal-Mart Stores is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. They're beating the market and so can you. 

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer thinks Penn State should get a do-over of last weekend. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy knows nothing about microreplication and is A-OK with that.