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 -- like some of the top professionals who view this as the best time in 35 years to invest in stocks. 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 (out of 5)

Call

jaygatsby49

99.66

11/1/06

Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO)

****

Outperform

anossov

99.64

10/12/06

Allied Irish Banks (NYSE:AIB)

*****

Outperform

metoo105

99.63

9/26/06

D.R. Horton (NYSE:DHI)

*

Underperform

muirmm

99.63

9/13/06

Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE:FCX)

*****

Underperform

devoish

99.61

11/22/06

Walgreen (NYSE:WAG)

****

Outperform

Rowing against the current
Consumers don't typically give up taking their medications when a recession hits, so investing in a staple like Walgreen is usually considered a smart, defensive move. Even when you look at recent results, which show same-store sales dropping 1.9% in February, a closer scan finds an extra day in the month last year. Remove that day and comps actually rose 1.9%.

Another explanation for the worse-than-expected results was consumers filling 90-day prescriptions rather than 30-day scripts. That shouldn't be a surprise these days, since the savings on the volume purchase help to stretch your dollars. But again, looking at a comparable 28-day period finds even pharmacy sales growing at a better-than-3% clip for the month.

With more than 6,600 stores, Walgreen is the No. 2 pharmacy behind CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS), and like many others in the retail sector, it has seen non-pharmacy sales slip. On a comparable basis in February, front-end sales were down, even if it was by a relatively negligible amount. As a result, the retailer is starting to push its private-label brands more heavily. It's a trend that's become more prevalent in grocery stores and is even causing consternation with some consumer-goods manufacturers.

Yet when it comes to retail sales, it's always instructive to look at Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) to see how it is performing. There we see that Wal-Mart posted a 5% increase in comps (excluding fuel). But it has cautioned that the five-week sales period in March includes Easter and notes that its Sam's Club chains are closed for the holiday. It didn't break out pharmacy sales in its report for the month, but Wal-Mart (the third-largest pharmacy chain) has indicated it will be pursuing the pharmacy benefits management industry aggressively, and Walgreen can expect tougher competition for business there.

Ultimately, top-rated CAPS All-Star SwordAgain believes the changes that Walgreen has undergone make it an interesting play:

3/3/09 Pitch: Upthumb. Earnings 3/23/09. It all depends on how well they cut costs and manage credit. Low debt. New CEO. Change in strategy which targets large employer on site POS. Interesting play. Past trades: 12/11/08 Pitch: Upthumb. Earnings 12/22/08, 8:30 AM Excellent performance long-term. Possible risk with CEO retiring and new leadership coming in.

Ahoy there!
Whether you've 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 still have the wind in their sails.

Allied Irish Banks is a Motley Fool Global Gains selection. Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Allied Irish Banks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

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.