Of all the insights I've heard over these few crazy months, the most telling came from an investor who appeared on CNBC last fall and advised, in all seriousness, "There are only two positions to be in right now: cash, and fetal."

I get it. Even with the recent rally, the economy remains wrapped in failure. Many companies that overleveraged their balance sheets are permanently impaired and will never fully rebound. AIG (NYSE:AIG) comes to mind. We had an unprecedented boom; now we're crawling out of an unprecedented bust. That's how markets work.

Even so, history tells us time and time again that the good gets thrown out with the bad in times like these. Using the wisdom of our 140,000-member-strong CAPS community, I've hunted down a few dirt-cheap, high-quality companies. Have a look:

Company

Recent Share Price

Forward P/E Ratio

5-Year Expected Growth Rate

TTM Return on Equity

Dividend Yield

CAPS Rating  
(out of 5)

IBM (NYSE:IBM)

$121.50

11.15

9.52%

56.80%

1.8%

***

Kimberly-Clark (NYSE:KMB)

$61.03

11.83

9.7%

34.52%

4.0%

****

Corning (NYSE:GLW)

$14.79

9.60

12.4%

11.95%

1.3%

*****

Data from Yahoo! Finance and Motley Fool CAPS, as of Oct. 28. 

Let's break down the bullish argument for each one.

A closer look at IBM
If there's one area still flush with bargains, it's high-quality large caps. With all the attention the market's paid to junk stocks getting a second shot at life, a host of strong, well-known names have been unfairly ignored. IBM is one of them. Trading at just 11 times next year's earnings, this is the rare great company at a greater price. CAPS member Alzo10 gives a few more reasons to like it, writing:

First, IBM does a fantastic job cultivating talent throughout the organization. Second, IBM has consistently remade itself as a company (probably 3 or 4 times since the 1980's alone) to rise to the top of the pack each time. Thirdly, this is a cash flow machine.

With IBM's ability to earn cash, and thier amazingly run company, I believe that IBM will be the winner in whatever technology direction they choose to go. They have the means to acquire or build from within, and the willingness to change course if something isn't working. This is coprorate Darwinism at its best.

A closer look at Kimberly-Clark
Kleenex. Huggies. Cottonelle. You know these brands. Kimberly-Clark is an iconic consumer staple company with massive international exposure, spitting out a big dividend. Hard to go wrong here, as CAPS member edwjm writes: "This is a defensive pick because it is in consummer staples, pays a very good dividend and should hold up better than the S&P should the spring-summer rally we have seen so far now be terminated by a classic October massacre."

A few weeks back, my colleague Mike Pienciak showed just how big this dividend really is. Kimberly-Clark's 4% yield beats the 3.1% yield at Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), 3.3% at Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), and the 2.3% yield at Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL). That's good compared with peers, and great compared with many fixed-income products, where you're lucky to get anything.

A closer look at Corning
Fellow Fool Rich Smith dug into glassmaker Corning yesterday after management touted sequential, not year-over-year results -- the later of which are still quite bad.

Yes, that makes management look like pathetic salesmen. But Corning remains an industry-leading champion that, as Rich notes, expects to grow sales by 20% in 2010 -- yet still trades at less than 10 times next year's earnings. "I'll let others criticize Corning for changing the 'rules of the game'" Rich wrote. "Me, I'm just thankful for the good news."

In Corning, investors have a company with recovery in sight, trading at a reasonably depressed valuation. And in this market, that's about as good as it gets.

You take it from here
Have your own take on any of these companies? More than 140,000 investors use CAPS to share ideas and swap opinions. Click here to check it out and speak your mind. It's 100% free to participate.

For related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Morgan Housel owns shares of Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble. Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, and Procter & Gamble are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble and has a disclosure policy.