The market malaise has had an effect on just about every sector of the market. Techn stocks like Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) in particular have had a very tough go of it lately. It controls almost a quarter of the market for network security and 61% of the router market, but orders for its networking equipment fell 9% in October, and management warned that sales for the whole quarter could drop by as much as 10%.

The economic downturn has many concerned that IT spending will suffer across the board which caused the market to sell off other tech names as well, like Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) and Intel (NYSE:INTC).

What seems to worry some analysts is the fact that the damage is not being limited to just the United States, but is spreading to Europe, Asia, and emerging markets as well. Businesses everywhere are cutting back spending steeply, and that's ricocheting back to Cisco and the like. Where a broad, international footprint was once seen as a buffer against trouble, it might now be a liability where all branches are infected.

CAPS member Zeppocaster acknowledges the lunacy of trying to make Cisco a short-term play at this juncture, but notes that switching costs remain high for businesses and with the level of support Cisco offers they'll keep a loyal following. That makes this tech issue a good long-term play still.

Tech industry is taking a beating, it would be foolish to expect to make short term gains, it has to get worse before it gets better, however once it does this stock is going to take off again. Cisco has a major market share, and while a little pricier than other options, IT loves the support provided. Too much of a hassle for IT teams to switch to another competitor.

What's hot, what's not?
Cisco is just one of several stocks Google's search activity shows is drawing more interest lately. Below are a few more hot stocks we've found by watching the giant's search trends, which we then pair up with ratings from the Motley Fool CAPS community. Over the first 20 months of tracking the collective intelligence, the data shows that newly minted 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.


CAPS Rating

Return on Capital, Last 12 months

Long-Term Growth Est.

Boeing (NYSE:BA)








Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS)




Mastercard (NYSE:MA)




National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV)




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

Soul searching
Aerospace giant Boeing is searching for ways to remain competitive while also rein in costs amid the global downturn and anticipated cutbacks in Pentagon spending. Yet with an extensive backlog of pending orders, Boeing believes it possesses the necessary strength to weather the turbulence. Even CAPS member moptimsr grudgingly admits the stock appears cheap at these levels.

There has been a lot of money made selling this stock short. It has little to make you think it is the airplane builder that got us this far. Management is weak and makes bad decisions. Still if they could get their selves in line they are still a good company. It's hard not to buy at these prices.

Will the turmoil in the financial markets continue to hamper Mastercard's business? CAPS member TMFFischer thinks there's a good chance. With credit limits at their ceiling and bank consolidation leading to fewer cards issued, there will be a chance to get Mastercard at lower prices yet.

MasterCard is an exceptional business, but expenses were up last quarter, and transaction volume growth is more likely to decline in the U.S. as employment continues to decline. Early in 2008, [Mastercard] saw large increases in dollar volume, but people were using credit to pay for essentials. That can't continue as credit limits are hit. Additionally, fewer banks means fewer card issuers. Visa, meanwhile, is seeing much higher debit card usage, and it leads [Mastercard] on debit cards by a large degree. I'd watch [Mastercard] for a possible purchase if it got cheap enough, but right now I don't think the worst is over in the economy.

Seek and ye shall find
It takes more than a brief glimpse and a few searches 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.

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Intel is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. National Oilwell Varco is a Stock Advisor pick. Google is a Rule Breakers selection.The Fool owns shares of and covered calls on Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of and covered calls on Intel 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.