Whether in the corporate lunchroom, our cubicles, 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 some 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 highest-rated, most talked-about stocks in the CAPS universe, and see whether you think they will outperform or underperform the market.

Stock

CAPS Rating (5 Stars Max)

No. of Recs

% Outperform

Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT)

****

4,212

94.4%

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD)

****

3,635

93.6%

Southern Copper (NYSE:PCU)

*****

4,161

96.7%

Suntech Power (NYSE:STP)

****

4,156

96.8%

Toyota Motors (NYSE:TM)

***

3,188

93.6%

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

A tall drink of water
The Federal Reserve has run out of bullets, effectively lowering interest rates to 0%. This action pummeled the dollar against foreign currencies, including near 13-year lows against the yen. Like solar energy company SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWRA), which generates almost two-thirds of its revenue in foreign currencies, China-based Suntech Power recognizes its foreign-generated revenue in dollars. Translating those sales back into dollars will likely affect its operations in the future. However, CAPS All-Star member mrindependent foresees other trends outweighing any such harm in this nearly new pitch:

This chinese solar stock is down more than 80 % from its peak. The company looks financially stable and it is a good play on two trends I believe in: (1) the solar industry should thrive under Obama presuming petroleum does not collapse any further and (2) China should rebound stronger than the United States given its higher volatility and better prospects.

Stuck in reverse
The headlines buzz with speculation that General Motors (NYSE:GM) or Chrysler might have to file for bankruptcy. But foreign automakers are more quietly suffering almost as much as their U.S. peers. While Chrysler led the way down, with a 47% drop in U.S. sales in November, Toyota experienced a 34% decline last month. The drop was so painful that Toyota is delaying production increases in Japan and India, postponing the opening of a new Mississippi plant, and cutting executive bonuses.

CAPS All-Starr dexion10 believes that Toyota's predicament is no better than U.S. automakers', since the company will soon face more streamlined, competitive rivals:

Toyota has $143 Billion in debt... it should be fun watching that debt get rolled over at the going corporate rates...Also expect to see Toyota shutter some capacity purchased with the debt listed above... assets go to zero but the debt will remain... AWESOME!

Oh yeah... also prepare to see leaner meaner competition from the USA... AWESOME!

Gather 'round
With so many good opinions about today's top companies available, jumping into the CAPS community is like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. 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 growth 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. 

On Jan. 12, 2009, Fool co-founder David Gardner, Jeff Fischer, and their Motley Fool Pro team will accept new subscribers to their real-money portfolio service. Motley Fool Pro is investing $1 million of the Fool's own money in long and short positions in a range of securities, including common stocks, put and call options, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). They also incorporate proprietary CAPS "community intelligence" data into their research. To learn more about Motley Fool Pro, and to receive a private invitation to join, simply enter your email address in the box below.

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