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 140,000-strong CAPS community -- where members give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to some 5,300 stocks -- seeks businesses it thinks will outperform the market. Below we'll take a look at some of the most popular and talked-about stocks in the CAPS universe, and examine whether you think they'll continue their winning ways.


CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

No. of Calls

% Outperform Calls

China Medical Technologies (NASDAQ:CMED)




KHD Humboldt Wedag (NYSE:KHD)




Mueller Water Products (NYSE:MWA)




Stryker (NYSE:SYK)




United States Natural Gas (NYSE:UNG)




A tall drink of water
Natural gas has taken what might rightly be called a black swan dive. Its price is so far outside its historical valuation compared to oil prices as to be considered a rare, one-time event, like the appearance of a black swan. Such a situation suggests that either gas or oil will make a move so that the ratio reverts to the mean.

While I agree with many on CAPS who believe gas prices will be the vehicle that narrows the distance, I wouldn't recommend United States Natural Gas as the driver of that move.

First, our demand for oil is still so great that it's hard to imagine the price could drop far enough to close the gap. The ratio of the front-month contracts of oil and natural gas rose to more than 27 in recent days, well ahead of the typical range of 6 to 15. Also, there have been changes going on at USNG that make it a riskier play.

USNG is a commodity ETF that tracks an underlying basket of securities and futures contracts on natural gas, rolling its positions every month as contracts expire. Recently, though, it began trading at a big premium to its NAV, causing management to refuse to issue new shares when it ran out of its original allotment.

Futures pools, like USNG, need to issue shares on a regular basis to track the underlying shares. USNG got approval to do so, but when the CFTC began investigating whether speculators were responsible for high gas prices, USNG opted not to issue the shares because it might end up having to divest itself of them if the regulator imposed limits on the size of positions that commodity funds can hold.

Even though USNG has risen more than 16% over the past week as natural gas prices have moved up off their seven-year lows, I think you'll find better plays in other parts of the industry. Anadarko (NYSE:APC) has moved higher by a similar amount, while Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) is up more than 22% for the week, and both remain strong contenders.

Surprisingly, even though we have burgeoning supplies, storage facility operators like Dominion Resources haven't been faring as well, and capacity issues may crimp production at E&P companies like EOG Resources.

United States Natural Gas looks like it would be a natural to win with any movements north in pricing, and in the short term it might. But until industrial demand recovers, as CAPS player BobbyGeology points out, there are too many risks concerning its future to consider investing in it.

Gather 'round
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 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.

Chesapeake Energy and Stryker are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. KHD Humboldt Wedag is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation and a Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection. The Fool owns shares of Stryker, Chesapeake Energy, and KHD Humboldt Wedag. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.