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. 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 stock pickers for more than two years now. Let's look at some of the recent picks of this community's mavens. If these All-Stars have been able to maintain their top status through a bull and a bear market alike, their opinions on stocks going forward might be worth watching.

CAPS Member

Member Rating

Member Since

Recent Stock Pick

CAPS Rating (5 Stars Max)

Call

wolfersmith

99.92

10/31/06

Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK)

*

Underperform

redearth329

99.92

12/15/06

Altria (NYSE:MO)

*****

Outperform

JohnnyLC

99.91

9/18/06

Aluminum Corp. of China (NYSE:ACH)

****

Outperform

senkihazi

99.91

9/23/06

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX)

**

Underperform

kristm

99.90

9/29/06

Palm (NASDAQ:PALM)

*

Underperform

While none of these are formal recommendations (Fools always do their due diligence first), we can spend some time looking at what other CAPS members think of a couple of them.

Rowing against the current
With fewer teens smoking this year than last, according to a survey conducted by the University of Michigan, it seems there should be a point where investing in a cigarette company presented diminishing returns. Yet it's also true there will always be people who smoke -- that same survey found that 7% of eighth-graders and 12% of 10th-graders smoked (even if those numbers are down substantially from over a decade ago) -- and CAPS member sugar1702 has taken notice. It's a built-in customer base. With the acquisition of smokeless tobacco maker UST (NYSE:UST), this member sees Altria as continuing to offer an excellent opportunity.

Cigarette demand is waning, however people who smoke will smoke no matter the price.....Conservative courts shall protect the manufacturers from a huge damage award......Plus in time of need, Municipalities will need the money earned from cigarette tax's.....UST acq. is a huge bonus

How much weight should an investor give to websites devoted to former (and even sometimes current) employees sounding off about their company? Foolish colleague Selena Maranjian notes that while a new book about Starbucks recounts how much the author enjoyed working there, she also came across numerous sites on the Internet where some suggested being a barista was something akin to being behind bars. Is that just sour grapes on the part of some employees -- after all, Fortune magazine rated Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) the No. 1 place to work, yet there are still people who gripe about it -- or a telltale sign?

Top-rated CAPS All-Star TraderBuckwheat thinks the grumblings at Starbucks are only that.

I love Starbucks and their employees. How does a company that does not pay employees top dollar get a labor pool that beats the Retail Clerks at Albertsons, [SUPERVALU] and [Safeway] especially. I guess when you treat your employees like humans and not like a piece of meat. .. With the other industries they work you beebop hours and split shifts which really suck if you are a college kid. Starbucks has hit Maturation and maybe next year we will rebuild our company like [McDonald's] did when it hit 12 USD five years ago.

Ahoy there!
Whether you've been in the markets for years or are new to them, it pays to start your own research on 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 members have the wind in their sails. 

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Starbucks is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick and a Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Google is a Rule Breakers recommendation.

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