The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Altria underperformed the S&P over the past 12 months. The article has been updated. The Fool regrets the error. 

Earnings season's afoot, and all the big names are coming out to play. Tomorrow, it's cheese-and-smokes magnate Altria (NYSE:MO) reporting its Q1 2007 numbers.

After the news comes out, we'll have time aplenty to dissect it. But in these few hours before we begin obsessing over Altria's short-term progress, let's take a moment to review what investors think about it as a long-term investment. Our tool in this endeavor: Motley Fool CAPS, where we poll more than 26,000 investors for their views on well over 4,000 companies, Altria among them. Here's what Fools have to say about the company.

Up or down?
Nearly 2,800 investors have submitted opinions on the company. The verdict: Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

A whopping 97% of CAPS investors -- both overall and among our All-Star players in particular -- think the company will outperform the market. Little wonder, then, that under the CAPS rating system, Altria rates a full five stars.

Within its CAPS peer group of tobacco titans, Altria's top o' the heap:

Cigarette Makers

CAPS Rating (out of five)



British American Tobacco (NYSE:BTI)


Loews Carolina (NYSE:CG)


Imperial Tobacco (NYSE:ITY)


Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI)


Vector Group (NYSE:VGR)


Gallaher Group


Wall Street vs. Main Street
The verdict is similar when you ask the investors who supposedly know the most about investing -- professional analysts. Not a single analyst goes on record panning the company, while 10 of them say it's a buy.

Brass tacks
So if Wall Street loves it, and average investors do, too, why is Altria lagging the market?

Bull pitch
Investors love Altria. Let me count the ways: They love its dividends, its history as the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 since 1957, and its future cash flows as the developing world becomes wealthy enough to afford its products. And did I mention that those products are addictive? Talk about customer loyalty!

Bear pitch
You can probably recite these off the top of your head: There's the ever-present threat of lawsuits, both here and abroad. The rising disfavor of cigarettes -- yes, again, both here and abroad. Legal regulation of where and when Altria's products can be consumed. It goes on and on.

Who said that?
To learn the identities of the wise Fools who penned these thoughts, and explore the plethora of additional financial data we've put together on the company, just click here.

Think you can pitch your favorite stock -- or ditch your least favorite one -- in 27 seconds or less? That's just what we're doing over at Motley Fool CAPS! Check out our new 27-second stock videos (or submit your own for a chance at $5,000).

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's ranked No. 284 out of more than 27,000 raters. The Fool has a disclosure policy.