After enduring a nearly unprecedented market drop over the past few years, it looks like investors have finally caught a bit of a break. Since last March, the stock market has staged a healthy comeback, rising over 50% from its lows.

But with stock prices rising so far so fast, and with the economy still on shaky ground, many are wondering if a correction isn't far off. One high-profile investment shop agrees that dark clouds may be looming.

The best offense is a good defense
Analysts over at Gabelli & Company, an affiliate of GAMCO Investors, are viewing the recent rally as a precursor to a market pullback. The team at Gabelli feels that a defensive positioning makes the most sense right now, especially given August's robust stock gains. In response, analysts have shifted focus, buying high-quality companies that are leaders in their respective industries.

In particular, the team has recently purchased five stocks that they feel fit this bill. From the beverage space, the team chose Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) and Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS). The list also includes utility holding company SCANA, along with Walgreen (NYSE:WAG) and Waste Management (NYSE:WM). Gabelli expects these picks to hold up better than the rest of the market during a correction.

And the folks at Gabelli aren't the only ones advising caution right now. James Glassman, president of the World Growth Institute and a former U.S. undersecretary of state, is recommending that investors reduce their stock allocations and hold more in cash and bonds. He feels that the generally negative environment of the past few years, combined with the likelihood that the U.S. will grow at a slower than normal rate in the coming years, calls for a greater reliance on more stable investments like cash and fixed income.

Correcting the correction
So is a correction in the cards? Well, it's certainly not impossible. After all, while economic activity appears to be stabilizing, it certainly isn't growing by leaps and bounds. Unemployment will serve as a dead weight on the economy, potentially for most of 2010. But, even so, history tells us that the stock market typically picks up long before economic recovery settles into place. That means that trying to time the market to avoid each and every short-term dip is a losing battle. You've got to be in the game to win it.

If you're worried about suffering through another market correction but don't want to abandon the market completely, take a hint from the folks at Gabelli and build yourself a good defense. Stock up on industry-leading, defensive consumer plays like Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM), or Kellogg (NYSE:K). These types of stocks may not burn up the charts, but they will provide solid prospects for appreciation, with meaningful downside protection.

In good company
Personally, I'm not too worried about whether the market is due for a short-term correction. I don't want to see my hard-earned gains disappear any more than the next person does, but I know that the real battle is won in the long run. Luminaries of no less stature than Warren Buffett and John Bogle agree, and in a statement from the Aspen Institute that both men recently signed, they slammed the short-term nature of the stock market. They warned that industry regulators may need to step in unless investors and companies alike adjust their behavior and stop viewing investing as a short-term sport. Well said, sirs!

No matter what comes next for the market, correction or not, it would behoove us all to adopt a long-term mind-set. Even if stocks do suffer another drop, odds are incredibly good that the market will make up that ground, and then some, in the long run. It's not easy to stay disciplined in these risky times, but the rewards for those who do will be great indeed.

Looking for more advice on how to guide your portfolio through the volatile markets ahead of us? Then check out the Fool's Rule Your Retirement service, which provides top-notch retirement and investing advice. Start your free 30-day trial today.

Amanda Kish heads up the Fool's Champion Funds investment newsletter, a division of Rule Your Retirement. Hansen Natural is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Coca-Cola is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble are Motley Fool Income Investor selections. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has a disclosure policy.