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.

Our 130,000-strong CAPS community -- where members give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to some 5,300 stocks -- has earned its points by seeking out the businesses it thinks will outperform the market. Below we'll look at some of the top stocks in the CAPS universe that you're talking about the most and discuss whether you think they'll continue their winning ways.

Stock

CAPS Rating (5 Max)

No. of Calls

% Outperform Calls

Costco (NASDAQ:COST)

****

2,799

95%

Markel (NYSE:MKL)

*****

2,640

97%

Monsanto (NYSE:MON)

****

2,682

95%

Nokia (NYSE:NOK)

****

2,516

93%

Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB)

*****

2,675

97%

A tall drink of water
That Nokia still commands 40% of the market share of worldwide smartphone sales is an achievement in itself, although that figure still represents a fall from loftier heights. The Finnish cellphone maker has been criticized over the years for not making the phones people want, steadfastly sticking with the "candy bar" style when the "clamshell" model was popular. But Nokia still commands more than twice the number of sales generated by its nearest rival, Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM).

Worldwide sales of smartphones climbed to 38.1 million units in the fourth quarter, an increase of 3.7%, according to the market researchers at Gartner. For the full year, they rose 14% to 139 million units.

As commanding as Nokia's lead is, though, the Gartner report highlights that the company needs to shake up its N series, as RIM's BlackBerry Storm continues to gain traction. Surprisingly, even though Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) saw its sales of the iPhone more than double in the fourth quarter, Gartner reports that inventory began to pile up in the third quarter and didn't fall by much in the fourth. At more 4 million units sold, the iPhone remains a distant third behind Nokia's 15.5 million units, while the BlackBerry Bold and Storm and the introduction of Google's Android platform from T-Mobile seemed to garner the most attention from consumers.

Missing from the list -- or more properly, lumped into the "other" category -- is the new smartphone from Palm, the Pre. That device has won a number of glowing reviews and may soon be climbing the sales charts. Whether this effort is ultimately too little, too late from Palm remains to be seen, but in any event, Nokia can no longer cede the field to its rivals.

The CAPS community is betting on a resurgent Nokia. CAPS member kabierwatz tallies up the points in its favor:

A gem of a company being sold for a song just like many others in the electronics business since low consumer sentiment is thought to drive all electronics into the ground over the next couple of years. Why you should own Nokia as opposed to the other guys: 1. World's largest handset manufacturer 2. Heavily involved in emerging markets (China, Africa) that will boom once global economy recovers 3. Little exposure to US consumer (not as much growth potential) 4. Cash stockpile and no short-term debt 5. Bottom-heavy product line makes it recession-resistant (vs. more premium AAPL, RIMM) 6. High-quality brand, product engineering (the goodwill alone is worth the price) 7. Essentially IS the Finnish economy (cannot fail)

For the year, Nokia's market share slipped, from 49% to 43%. The company's lower-end offerings will undoubtedly help prop up its sales, but the higher-end market may end up suffering if Nokia allows rivals such as RIM, Apple, and even Taiwanese newcomer HTC to dominate the headlines.

Gather 'round
With so many good opinions about today's top companies at CAPS, 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 toward 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.

Costco Wholesale, Markel, and Nokia are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Apple and Costco Wholesale are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Markel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey has no financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.