Keeping your portfolio above water in these markets is no easy task. Companies can be too easily whipsawed by the whimsical musings of the Treasury Department or the Fed, making investors who've successfully navigated these rough waters rare indeed. A steady track record of staying afloat is even more impressive.

The All-Stars in our Motley Fool CAPS investor intelligence database have found themselves particularly adroit at consistently steering their picks through these turbulent markets. CAPS has successfully marked the performance of the best stocks for more than two years now. Let's look at some of the recent picks of this community's longtime investing mavens. If these All-Stars have been able to maintain their top status through bull and bear markets alike, their opinions on stocks for the months and years ahead might be worth watching.

CAPS Member

Member Rating

Member Since

Recent Stock Pick

CAPS Rating
(5 Max)

Call

luvb2b

99.96

11/24/06

Mosaic (NYSE:MOS)

****

Underperform

BeautifulPlumage

99.95

9/13/06

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)

*****

Outperform

FlaxSeedOil

99.94

10/10/06

H.J. Heinz (NYSE:HNZ)

****

Outperform

wcwhiner

99.93

10/9/06

Automatic Data Processing (NASDAQ:ADP)

****

Underperform

JRtrader08

99.92

12/9/06

Alcatel Lucent (NYSE:ALU)

**

Outperform

Rowing against the current
Earlier this year as food prices skyrocketed, beef, grain, and fertilizer producers were castigated for their role in making the basics of human survival more expensive. Ethanol makers like Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM) and Bunge (NYSE:BG) were said to benefit because of corn's rising cost. Such simplistic bromides ignore the role government policy plays in setting prices -- the government mandates ethanol production, after all -- but fertilizer maker Mosaic has also been criticized for cutting phosphate production as it is seen as a means of keeping prices artificially high.

Even with commodities prices beaten down in recent months, the sector remains a favored investing area of CAPS member DrDinoTX who finds the numbers reporting game too uncertain in other industries.

Commodities are the best play in this market. Too many industries are facing tremendous asset devaluations and I have little confidence in the financial reporting of many industries. We are starting to see more reliable financial number through mark-to-market accounting adjustments but it is still too early for my risk appetite. I favor Mosaic for its current low price per share and strong fundamental now and in the foreseeable future.

High switching costs remain a key competitive advantage for some businesses, increasing the size of their moat. CAPS member djemonk finds the time and cost of switching away from the services Automatic Data Processing offers, for example, is just too great to persuade a customer to undertake the endeavor.

I work with ADP business systems. Switching away from just their HRMS and payroll systems is projected as a 9-15 month project for our particular company, so it's unlikely to happen. I imagine the same is true for other companies. Once ADP has their foot in the door, they're your vendor for a long time.

They are increasingly moving clients to a hosted model which provides them ongoing revenue streams from hosting consulting fees.

Their moat increases when you factor in the idea that ADP payroll numbers come out before the governments, so investors and economists should all know ADP from that respect.

Yet will rising unemployment levels do to ADP what the competition couldn't? According to the payroll processor, November saw an estimated 250,000 jobs lost in the U.S., which follows on the heels of a decline of 179,000 jobs in October. A further economic downturn could spell trouble as CAPS member ahoymaties sees ADP tied to interest rates.

Until interest rates rise ADP is going to lag the market. Due to its solid balance sheet it has not been beat up as bad as the rest of the world, but it won't gain as quickly as the S&P if/when there's a recovery.

Ahoy there!
Whether you're been in the markets for years or are new to them, it pays to start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS. 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. Then share your views with the CAPS community on whether these old salts have the wind in their sails.

H.J. Heinz is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey has no financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.