On Thursday the S&P/ASX 200 (Index: ^AXJO) (ASX: XJO) staged a remarkable turnaround from early losses to finish the session up 0.6%.

The rebound came despite a negative lead from Wall Street which saw the S&P 500 finish down 1.1% and a continuation of a supressed oil price which is weighing on global market sentiment.

The strength in the local market could have investors questioning whether we have possibly reached a floor around the 5,000 point level…however, it may also just be a breather before a renewed sell-off.

While a sell-off of the severity of what occurred during the GFC might seem a distant possibility at present, it could be worthwhile considering the best stocks to own if you want your portfolio to be defensively positioned.

Consider this, in the past three months the index has fallen nearly 7%. Over the same period numerous widely-owned “blue chips” such as Australia and New Zealand Banking (ASX: ANZ) and Woolworths Limited (ASX: WOW) have fallen by even more – 17% and 11% respectively in the cases of ANZ Bank and Woolworths.

Meanwhile, a select number of “infrastructure” type companies have managed to outperform and in fact achieve positive performances despite the volatility.

Here are three stand-outs over the past three months:

  1. Transurban Group (ASX: TCL) is up nearly 4% – the toll road operator owns assets which are practically impossible to replicate and attract a very sticky customer base. Even including the GFC period the stock has still gained 50% since early 2006 compared with an essentially flat return from the index.
  2. Sydney Airport Holdings Ltd (ASX: SYD) is up just over 2% – the owner and operator of the major gateway into and out of Australia continues to post solid operating performance figures. Whilst a second airport in Sydney is expected to be built, Sydney Airport actually has the first rights over this site. Since early 2006, a period which incorporates the GFC the stock has gained over 110%.
  3. Telstra Corporation Ltd (ASX: TLS) has gained 0.5% – while the uniqueness of the telco’s assets is diminishing as the NBN rollout gathers pace, Telstra still benefits from leading mobile coverage and an entrenched customer base. Over the past decade the stock has gained 40%.

Markets can change quickly, so in times like these investors need to remain alert as the situation can change quickly.

With the oil price crashing to 15-year lows and China’s economy showing signs that it is slowing there are plenty of macro-economic concerns…but there always are!

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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.