We all want the best in life. Whether it's the best clothes, the best cars, the best houses, or ... the best stocks.

One way to find the best stocks is to look for companies that multiple analysts have picked to outperform. It's the analysts' job to rate companies based on their fundamentals, outlook, and valuation, so if several analysts have a buy rating on a particular stock that might just mean it's a winner.

Take consumer goods company Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) or Altria Group (NYSE:MO), which have no “underperform” calls and 18 and 21 "outperform" calls, respectively, from Motley Fool CAPS-rated analysts. Check under the hood of these analyst ratings, and you do indeed find strong companies.  

Procter & Gamble sells a wide range of consumer staples. The consumer goods juggernaut has a portfolio of leading brands and a focus on innovation for the future. P&G also keeps a close watch on the cost side of its business. The company has marked positive earnings surprises for the last six consecutive quarters and 13 of the last 14 quarters. That kind of history is pretty comforting in this environment.

The company also has credit ratings that are ranked in the top 5% of all publicly traded companies -- a major positive in an economic environment characterized by tight credit and illiquidity.

If you’re not ideologically opposed to investing in Altria, the tobacco king offers a plump dividend yield of 7.6% that is most likely safely locked in, as smokers aren’t likely to cut back on their habits even in this downturn. Compare Altria’s yield with short-term Treasury bills, which are currently yielding 0.28% to 1.88%.

Additionally, new legislation is on tap that appears to strengthen Altria’s already strong competitive position. The proposed law would stop the Food and Drug Administration from outlawing cigarettes. And the legislation also makes it difficult to obtain approval for new cigarettes, essentially thwarting new entrants from competing with Altria.

Analyst ratings can lead to finding strong investment candidates. So, wouldn't it be great to know which companies Wall Street favors the most? To find some of the Street's favorite companies, I used the screening tool at the "wisdom-of-crowds" club we call CAPS. I screened using the following criteria:

  • Stocks with 10 or more outperform ratings from Wall Street analysts.
  • Stocks with 1,000 or more outperform ratings from members of the CAPS community.
  • Stocks with CAPS ratings of five stars, the highest possible.
  • Stocks with market caps of $5 billion or greater.

Here are some of the companies that showed up when I ran the screen: (Run the screen yourself, if you like.)

Company

Market Cap
(in billions)

# of Wall Street
Outperform Ratings

Outperform Picks
in CAPS Community

Altria

$34.9

21

7,646

Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX)

$9.5

15

5,202

Kraft Foods (NYSE:KFT)

$42.2

14

1,729

Novartis (NYSE:NVS)

$94.4

13

1,048

PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP)

$80.0

15

3,108

Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM)

$77.5

15

1,662

Procter & Gamble

$158.0

18

5,390

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

Keep in mind, though, that while analysts understand equities well, you shouldn't purchase stocks based solely on their "buy" recommendations. Instead, make their calls an indicator for further research, to see whether a particular stock is right for your portfolio.

Start searching for your favorite stocks at Motley Fool CAPS today! Let the collective wisdom of our 125,000-member investment community help you make better investing decisions.

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Fool contributor Jennifer Schonberger does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble. Kraft Foods and Pepsi are Motley Fool Income Investor recommendations. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.