Here's fodder for a sigh of relief: Despite the recent sell-off, the stock market still shows a gain on a year-to-date basis. Being the contrarian I am, though -- and given all the volatility we've experienced -- I think shrewd investors ought to at least contemplate whether we're heading for a market correction -- i.e., a decline of 10% and perhaps even more. That's particularly true when a talented money manager has assessed the situation and identified what he calls a "global bubble."

Dialing down risk
Last year, Jeremy Grantham -- the "G" of the world-class GMO money management outfit -- chimed in on what he called "the Wile E. Coyote" economy. In a more recent quarterly report, Grantham observed that "from Indian antiquities to modern Chinese art; from land in Panama to Mayfair; from forestry, infrastructure, and the junkiest bonds to mundane blue chips; it's bubble time!"

Now, normally, as I do my homework for the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service, I put little stock in market prognosticators. Grantham, however, is one of a handful of exceptions. And while I don't share his totalizing view that, eventually, "the bursting of the bubble will be across all countries and all assets, with the probable exception of high-grade bonds," I do think investors would be smart to at least tilt in the direction of more attractively valued large-cap stocks.

Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), for example, currently trade with price-to-earnings ratios (P/Es) that clock in below that of the S&P 500 despite having beaten that benchmark for the 10 years that ended with July. Meanwhile, the likes of Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Wyeth (NYSE:WYE) sport stock prices that are well off their 52-week highs.

Contrarian's corner
Being cautious, of course, is in the eye of the shareholder. Avoiding stocks -- or simply reducing your exposure to them -- is one way of getting that job done, but so is favoring less volatile investments. One option: mutual funds that favor the kinds of stocks that trendy types -- you know, the ones who inflated the market bubble during the late 1990s, only to watch it burst in early 2000 -- typically avoid.

That means tilting toward prospects with the best relative valuations -- stocks that have less room to fall when the market heads south, and greater upside potential when the market turns cautious. Indeed, a manager at one of our Champion Funds recommendations made out like a proverbial bandit in the post-bubble era, racking up a gain of more than 75% between March 2000 and December 2002, while the S&P shed some 33% of its value over that stretch of time.

Impressive. And what's more, while this fund plays it close to the vest with its picks -- Wrigley (NYSE:WWY) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) recently appeared in the portfolio, for example -- the managers here certainly have the courage of their convictions: At the end of June, the fund's top 10 holdings soaked up nearly 50% of assets.

The Foolish bottom line
Make no mistake: I think the key to being a successful long-term investor is designing a well-diversified asset-allocation game plan that suits your timeline and tolerance for risk, and sticking to it over the course of many years. That said, it's possible to be intelligently opportunistic along the way -- and a top-notch fund that specializes in out-of-favor stocks is a great way to do just that.

With that in mind, if you'd like to sneak a peek at this contrarian pick -- not to mention all the others we've recommended since Champion Funds first opened for business -- you're in luck: A free 30-day guest pass is just a mouse-click away. You'll have access to our back-issue archives, model portfolios, and complete list of recommended funds. 

Take Champion Funds for a spin now and the Fool's latest premium report -- The NEW Rule Makers: 5 Power Stocks You'll Never Want to Sell -- is yours free. You'll also have access to our latest special reports: The Challenge: ETFs vs. Mutual Funds and Add Kick to Your 401(k)! Just click here to snag the reports (which are yours to keep) and a risk-free Champion Funds membership. 

This article was originally published on May 16, 2006. It has been updated.

Shannon Zimmerman runs point on the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter service and co-advises Motley Fool Green Light with his pal Dayana Yochim. At the time of publication, he didn't own any of the securities mentioned above. Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Wrigley is an Income Investor pick. You can check out the Fool's strict disclosure policy right here.