Whether in 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.

Those in our 130,000-strong CAPS community -- where members give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to nearly 5,400 stocks -- seek out the businesses that they think will outperform the market. Below, we'll take a look at some of the stocks that investors are talking about the most in CAPS, and whether they think these companies will continue their winning ways.

Stock

CAPS Rating (5 Stars Max)

No. of Calls

% Outperform Calls

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN)

****

1,959

91%

BP (NYSE:BP)

*****

2,770

95%

FedEx (NYSE:FDX)

****

1,975

89%

Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS)

****

1,780

92%

iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT)

***

1,107

89%

A tall drink of water
Now the oil traders are acting like dot-com investors, chasing any glimmer of hope to bump up valuations. After Wednesday's report that U.S.  government stockpiles fell by 700,000 barrels the last week in February -- compared with expectations that they would rise by 2.2 million -- oil prices jumped 9% in trading. Add in Chinese manufacturing expanding for the third month in a row, and you have some analysts predicting $75-a-barrel oil again.

The oil companies themselves, however, seem less sure. They are still preparing to weather a storm that has yet to break. Oil and gas giant BP expects slack demand to persist, with consumption falling by 1 million barrels a day in 2009, much as it did last year. It cut its production forecast through 2012 to 4.1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, from 4.3 million barrels. This darker view, compared with oil traders' more ebullient one, led BP to also slice a billion dollars from its capital spending plans, to $21 billion.

BP is not alone. Although ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron are maintaining their spending levels, others like Devon Energy are lopping their budget in half, while Hess and Marathon Oil are cutting their budgets more than 25% each. Even ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) is cutting spending by 18%.

There's the risk, of course, that the much-hyped Chinese stimulus plan will indeed kickstart demand for oil again. If that happens, some analysts worry that with the oil companies cutting back production, we'll see shortages, and oil prices will soar once more.

The production cuts don't mean Big Oil is giving up on exploration. BP, for example, maintains that it replaced 121% of its reserves last year, meaning it brought in more than it produced for the 15th consecutive year. Moreover, the company expects to increase production by 1% to 2% each year through 2030 via its existing projects alone. Yet it also noted that it's still exploring in Colombia and Libya.

Investors understand that the respite from high gas prices is fleeting. The easy oil has been captured, and politicians are saying they're dedicated to weaning us off of foreign fossil fuel. But the energy secretary scrapped leases for oil-shale development on federal lands just weeks after he halted the leasing of oil- and gas-drilling parcels near national parks in Utah. CAPS member jsolorio says it's only a matter of time before oil prices go up again, helping BP.

Lots of cash in this company! Though the share price might continue to fluctuate, this stock will skyrocket once the economy hits bottom. Bp is well diversified and energy is the future. The Bubble of the 1980's is quite different from the 140's oil now. There's no easy oil anymore, deep-water drilling requires high-tech and high-prices. No matter what, oil will go up again and bp will profit from that.

Gather 'round
Consulting the CAPS community is like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. With 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? 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 free service and let us hear what you have to say about the great and almost-great companies that interest you.

iRobot and Hansen Natural are Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks. FedEx is a Stock Advisor recommendation. 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.