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 120,000-strong CAPS community -- where members give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to nearly 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 are talked about the most and whether members think they will outperform or underperform the market.

Stock

CAPS Rating (5 stars max)

No. of Recs

% Outperform

AT&T (NYSE:T)

****

4,172

94%

Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-B)

*****

3,964

98%

Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG)

****

3,455

94%

Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)

*****

5,243

97%

Valero (NYSE:VLO)

****

4,220

95%

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

A tall drink of water
Even though oil prices remain at some of their lowest levels in a year, refiners like Valero and Tesoro (NYSE:TSO) still suffer from a lack of consumer demand. Tight credit markets also mean realigning their business won't be easy -- Valero has decided not to sell two of the three refineries it had planned to -- and with refining capacity expected to outpace growth in demand, refiners might find their margins remaining tight.

On the other hand, CAPS member Alwaysgolong thinks Valero has certain attributes that make it a worthwhile long-term investment candidate.

Great company! Best in class in so many areas of business its almost magical. I'm a retired Fire Capt and Texas A&M fire school Instructor. The Valero guys always stand out in the crowd, they always go [the] extra mile for their company. When that many employees are that proud of their company, its means something good is happening at the top.

No static
After it closes on the Alltel deal, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) will become the country's largest wireless carrier. Yet it will still have to work to gain ground on AT&T, which has benefited from its close association with the iPhone. The BlackBerry Storm and Bold may help Verizon in that respect, but AT&T's plans to launch femtocell technology next year may make the race exciting. Femtocells are small, cellular base stations designed to be used in homes and office buildings, connecting with a service providers' network through a broadband connection. Think of it as Wi-Fi for your cell phone.

CAPS member RMFIII finds AT&T's 3G network to be an attractive proposition for younger cellular users.

Starting to take a bit of a beating but for the long haul [AT&T] will bring on nice returns. Say what you will but [AT&T's] rates are [tough] to beat and the young crowd will continue to be part of this network. Should be a nice long haul position to hold and the dividend is not bad and makes slow growth more tolerable.

KokueiOTD thinks that Procter & Gamble's stable of products makes it a good value, so that even in a recession, it will succeed.

[Procter & Gamble] is a boring company that produces a ton of essential consumer products. Procter & Gamble is going to be around for a long time, making the stuff that consumers buy no matter what the economic situation looks like (unless, of course, we all collectively decide to stop brushing our teeth, washing our hair, shaving, putting diapers on our babies, feeding our dogs, or--most unlikely of all--eating Pringles). A great, stable long-term value buy.

Gather 'round
The CAPS community is like trying to take a sip from a fire hose -- so many good opinions about today's top companies. Why not 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? 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.

Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value and a Stock Advisor pick. Intuitive Surgical is a Rule Breakers recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.