When it comes to investing in the stock market, it pays to be skeptical. Not only should you not believe everything the analysts tell you, but you often have to discount what the companies are telling you, too.

Going against the crowd can pay off handsomely. Some of the market's legendary investors have been contrarians: Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, John Neff, and Marty Whitman. Like baseball's greatest place hitter, "Wee Willie" Keeler, contrarians "hit 'em where they ain't."

When the crowd abhors a stock, a contrarian wants to look more closely at it. Similarly, when the masses crowd into one, the skeptical thinker believes it's time to move on.

A new breed of contrarian
Today I'm looking at a new breed of contrarian, the Motley Fool CAPS "skeptic." Skeptics don't think like most investors. They're willing to see the downside potential of a stock, as well as the upside. CAPS skeptics have rated more stocks as underperforming the market than outperforming it. They're contrarian in that they find more downside potential than upside. However, I've also noted that quite a few "official Fools" are considered skeptics, so I thought I'd do it a bit different this week and see what they're recommending.

Here are some recent picks from five Foolish CAPS skeptics:

Company

CAPS Rating

Skeptic

Player Rating

Halliburton (NYSE:HAL)

****

abitarecatania

90.81

Corriente Resources (AMEX:ETQ)

**

beardel

96.72

Boeing (NYSE:BA)

****

betmck

99.76

Zumiez (NASDAQ:ZUMZ)

****

dbhealy

99.73

Penn West Energy (NASDAQ:PWE)

*****

DownWith Infidels

99.96

The stocks above are not automatic buys. Just as a list of their worst stocks would not be a list of stocks to short, this list of most favorites requires a little more thinking and drilling down into the financial statements than that. But it's a place to start.

Zooming backwards in retail
Seems that skate crowd retailer Zumiez pulled a "fakie" recently, pulling back on its guidance for the year in an environment that's already considered difficult by many analysts. Not surprisingly, the stock dropped, skinning a few knees, I'm sure. Yet with shares off around 30% from the end of October, this is one stock investors might have considered buying when they were doing their Black Friday shopping.

And for good reason: low debt, high insider ownership, high long-term growth forecasts. These reasons remain in place despite the share's decline, and are some of the very reasons it was chosen as a recommendation of Motley Fool Hidden Gems.

Top-rated All-Star sicjoy, who has a 97.02 player rating, sees the housing slump as having a hand in Zumiez' decline -- with less excess cash laying around and tighter credit, people won't be shopping as much -- but he believes it will have a limited impact.

Quality stock recently beaten down by recent housing slump. Do the teenie boppers care? Unless unemployment rises as a result, I don't think so.

Of course, on the other side of the coin, CAPS players like oreo2007 think that it will be precisely because of those issues playing so large on Christmas shopping this year that Zumiez, as well as all retailers, are going to have a heckuva time posting decent numbers.

If they are counting on a good Christmas season, then these guys are going to hell in handbasket. All retailers are going to be down this season, including these guys.

The retail environment is topsy-turvy since some teen retailers have bucked the trend recently. If nothing else, Pacific Sunwear (NASDAQ:PSUN) looks to have positioned itself for basking in the glow of better times ahead.

Seeing past the obvious
Contrarians try to see past the headlines. They know that just beyond the wrack and ruin of the storm clouds lies a shimmering morning. Conversely, the sun can shine forever, though the crowds may think the green grass and blue skies go on and on. In the meantime, drop by CAPS and tell us which stocks are your favorite contrarian picks.

Zumiez is a recommendation of Motley Fool Hidden Gems. Don't be skeptical about the 30-day, risk-free trial subscription. Click here to start yours today.

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