Whether it's the corporate lunchroom, your cubicle, or the local watering hole after work, there are regular places we gather to discuss news, sports or -- if you're like us -- stocks. Here at Motley Fool CAPS, we gather around the virtual water cooler daily to rate stocks and delve into their merits as investments.

Our 115,000-strong CAPS community -- where members give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to more than 5,400 stocks -- has shown a propensity for making prescient market calls. Our data indicates that newly minted five-star stocks offer some of the best opportunities to investors, while the lowest-rated companies fared worst. Below we'll take a look at some of the top stocks in the CAPS universe that you're talking about the most, and whether you think they will outperform or underperform the market.


CAPS Rating (5 Stars Max)

No. of Recs

% Outperform

Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO)




Ford (NYSE:F)








Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX)








Data from Motley Fool CAPS as of Oct. 8 2008.

Phoning in profits
Consumers aren't the only ones seeking ways to cut costs. Small and medium-sized businesses are also looking at all avenues to offset higher expenses. Amid investor jitters, Ciena (NASDAQ:CIEN) sneezed last month, and Cisco's stock caught a cold. Yet as businesses consider implementing VoIP systems to lower their telephone bills, CAPS member jswolf thinks that movement could push IP traffic leader Cisco forward:

VoIP, anyone? Internet traffic trends continue to grow, and Cisco is the world leader in IP traffic almost any way you look at it. Revenue and earnings are growing at a nice clip (10% or more annually), and growing steadily. Cisco [weathered] the last industry downturn well, and with a trailing P/E of 15, this is an attractive price.

That's similar to the opinion expressed by Polarimetric, who thinks Cisco will be the reigning champ for years to come:

Cisco is at the forefront of the ever expanding network communications industry. With tons of products and a huge business presence, Cisco is a power play that will benefit from the reemergence of the tech sector as a strong growth sector. Cisco continues to innovate and provide affordable communications products and will for many years to come.

Fording rough waters
Ford investors are almost split 50-50 over whether the car company will outperform the market (let alone survive). That dichotomy is perhaps best represented by two recent pitches for this once-venerable auto icon.

CAPS member dkramar19 believes that CEO Alan Mulally is the right person for the job at this time, holding employees accountable for making the best possible product:

Ford is doing all the right things. They have the right leadership, sense of urgency, an energy management focus and a great upcoming product line. Mulally is one of the most dynamic leaders I have ever witnessed in corporate America.... They haven't been able to shine given the other financial turmoil that's happened with the banking industry. But they will definitely come out of this and show everyone what they've been missing.

On the other hand, videogamestocks thinks Ford can't survive without further government assistance, following the below-market rate loans it and the other automakers got:

Congress already spent its trillion dollar allowance for keeping dinosaurs alive, so things aren't looking good for Ford if you ask me. Too bad they didn't crash before AIG, or i'm sure they would have been kept afloat instead.

While General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Chrysler have been hammering home the message that they'd like to unload their bad debts -- just like the banks are -- Ford has said it has none to get rid of. But if GM is ultimately successful in getting that language passed, would Ford pass up the opportunity?

Gather 'round
How 'bout you? Will Ford drive away a winner yet? Can Garmin find its way back to revenue growth? Grab a pointy paper cup from the dispenser and join us at the Motley Fool CAPS water cooler, where your input can help guide other investors to stocks with bright prospects for growth. 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.

Sign up today for the completely free service, and let us hear what you have to say about the great and almost-great companies that interest you.

Garmin is a Global Gains pick. Starbucks is an Inside Value recommendation. Starbucks and Garmin are Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

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