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 stars max.)

Call

ElViking

99.94

9/16/06

Life Time Fitness (NYSE:LTM)

*

Underperform

mordante

99.89

9/18/06

Coach (NYSE:COH)

****

Outperform

rzld36

99.89

10/24/06

PotashCorp (NYSE:POT)

****

Outperform

DoctorMAD

99.88

12/26/06

UltraShort QQQQ ProShares (NYSE:QID)

*

Outperform

translator999

99.88

11/21/06

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)

***

Outperform

Steering into the storm
Maintaining the exclusivity of your products is an important component in marketing luxury goods. When Tiffany (NYSE:TIF) introduced a line of low-priced silver chains and bracelets cheap enough for every mallrat to wear, the blue-box purveyor tarnished its cachet. Tiffany eventually raised its prices again, to instill the sense that buying one of its pieces still meant you were joining an elite club. 

Coach seems to face a different situation. The luxury handbag maker refused to cut prices for the holidays to attract buyers, even in the face of a difficult retail environment, because doing so might diminish the brand. At a time when even the wealthy are looking for a deal, and "excessive luxury" is facing a death rattle, that seems to be a risky ploy by the company.

CAPS member TMoney101 understands Coach's reluctance to diminish the value of its brand, but believes that with plenty of cheap knockoffs available, its decision to forego sales to protect its aspirational theme could hurt it in the long run:

In the face of terrible economic conditions, the Company refused to lower its retail prices for the holiday season. One the one-hand, I respect their attempts to avoid over saturation / devaluation of their products. Unfortunately though, the market for Coach products has and will continue to be flooded by knock-offs, resulting in exactly the same problem without the revenues.

CAPS member Foliobuilder seems to think Apple may have ventured down a similar crooked path as Tiffany when it signed a pact with the "devil" and agreed to sell its iPhone at Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). There's always been a certain cachet about Apple's products -- the notion that they're suitable only for the cognoscenti (even if it seems everyone has an iPod in some form or another). Making the iPhone available through the discounter, however, leaves Foliobuilder convinced that the move may make Wal-Mart cool while causing Apple to rot:

Apple is facing cutthroat competition with [Research In Motion] and others. There are high quality substitutes that are readily available at a lower price for most of their products. The high overhead at their retail outlets has prompted them to offer their products for sale at [Wal-Mart] -- the investment community actually put a positive spin on this -- incredulous!

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. 

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Wal-Mart Stores is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Coach and Apple are Stock Advisor recommendations.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Wal-Mart but does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.