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.

Stock

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

No. of Calls

Outperform Calls

Aflac (NYSE:AFL)

****

1,326

94%

Chicago Bridge & Iron (NYSE:CBI)

*****

1,311

97%

CryptoLogic (NASDAQ:CRYP)

*****

1,312

96%

McDermott International (NYSE:MDR)

*****

1,326

97%

Rofin-Sinar Technologies (NASDAQ:RSTI)

*****

1,319

98%

A tall drink of water
After the Institute for Supply Management reported that its August index numbers had jumped to 52.9%, the first time since January 2008 that it was in expansion mode, manufacturing looked ready to get molten-hot again after sitting so long on the slag heaps. However, September's numbers poured a little cold water on things, as the index once again pulled back.

Engineering and construction companies like Chicago Bridge & Iron and McDermott might face lurching starts and stops with increasing frequency as the economy works out its kinks. Commercial real estate is still shedding excess inventory, and steel capacity remains lacking. It rose to only 60% in the last week of September, well below the 90% level the industry was operating under a year ago. However, the energy markets might still provide the necessary catalyst to bring on greater growth.

Chicago Bridge & Iron was just awarded a $100 million Panamanian contract to design and build a 5.4 million-barrel crude oil storage facility. That follows a $550 million contract it was awarded by Chevron (NYSE:CVX) to build LNG and condensate storage tanks at the Gorgon LNG liquefaction project on Barrow Island in Australia.

In contrast, Fluor (NYSE:FLR) has been experiencing delays at its U.S.-based refinery expansion sites, so it might not experience the same recovery. Such projects account for half of its revenue, but CAPS member MLIAOM09 sees the rebounding economy as a reason to construct a bull case for Chicago Bridge & Iron:

With economy rebounding and expecting to get better in 2010 Construction business will rebound with it. CBI will be right there. I really like this company it will be worth whole lot more in 5 years

Similarly, highly rated CAPS All-Star PebbledShore blogged a few months back that Chicago Bridge & Iron is well-positioned to recover from the worldwide recession, even if the company has bounced higher already:

This game isn't about nailing the bottom every time; that's impossible.This game is about buying and selling higher than what you paid. I am confident that I can "sell" CBI in the next year for a nice gain from today's price. Most important, the downside looks limited.

It's pretty much the same for investors in McDermott, where CAPS member michaeltbryant looks to the energy sector to prop the stock up. But back in February, directd saw the construction company's backlog and understood there was more business coming its way:

At 4 times earnings this looks like an absolute steal. Global stimulus packages amounting to trillions of dollars much of which will be spent on infrastructure and energy will benefit this industry overall. There is absolutely no evidence of projects being canceled and if anything I expect projects and backlogs to go up as massive gov. stimulus efforts and a slow economic recovery appear far more likely than the Argmaggedon the alarmists are speaking of.

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.

Aflac is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. is a Motley Fool Global Gains recommendation. CryptoLogic and Rofin-Sinar Technologies are Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendations. 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 stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.