What's a good investor to do? With the market doing triple-digit loop-de-loops -- frequently in the form of tummy-squeezing plunges -- picking stocks, or even sectors, can be challenging.

My inclination, as I struggle to take a top-down perspective on the universe of equities, is to suggest that Fools think awfully hard about how the world of energy is likely to shake out in 2009 and 2010. When I go through that exercise, it seems to me that the Big Oil stocks of ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and BP (NYSE:BP) deserve your attention, as do the Bobbsey Twins of deepwater drilling: Transocean (NYSE:RIG) and Diamond Offshore (NYSE:DO).

Here are some reasons why I think Big Oil is ready for a comeback:

  • I won't contend that the slide in crude prices from north of $145 a barrel in July to about $55 currently can't continue. But OPEC recently agreed to cut 1.5 million barrels a day from its production. It has also scheduled a meeting for later this month, in addition to its regular meeting in December. I'll be surprised if further production cuts don't result.
  • Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) is predicting the idling of 200 rigs in North America in December, a whopping number that'll likely affect oil prices -- and to some extent natural gas prices -- during the next year or two. This trend is unlikely to hit the deepwater companies as hard as it will their jack-up brethren.
  • Analysts differ about the extent to which oil demand will grow this year and next. Nevertheless, in a world where supply and demand are effectively in balance, it won't take long for the cancellation or deferral of numerous global energy projects -- including several in the oil sands of Canada, our biggest crude supplier -- to come home to roost.
  • According to BusinessWeek, the Integrated Oil & Gas group has outperformed the S&P 500 during the past year. If you believe -- as I do -- that energy prices are near a bottom, it's difficult to envision that trend reversing itself.

So, as you wander through the great wasteland that stock picking has become, it seems to me that, if your investment time horizon is at least a year out (and preferably longer), it makes awfully good sense for you to stop for an energy infusion.

Of the companies mentioned above, ConocoPhillips, Transocean, and Baker Hughes have generated five-star ratings from Motley Fool CAPS members. Do these ratings include your thumbs-up?

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned, and can't for quite awhile because he's written about them. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy hopes Bert, Nan, Flossie, and Freddie Bobbsey are all doing well.