Actions speak louder than words, as the old saying goes. So why does the media focus so much attention on what Wall Street says about companies, instead of what it does with them?

Luckily for Wall Street watchers, the Internet brings us MSN Money's list of which companies the institutions are buying. True, we should be as skeptical of Wall Street's actions as we are of its words. But when the 145,000-plus lay and professional investors on Motley Fool CAPS agree with Wall Street's opinions, it just might be time for some buying.

Here's the latest edition of Wall Street's Buy List, alongside our investors' opinions of the companies involved:


Recent Price

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Patriot Coal (NYSE:PCX)



American Capital (NASDAQ:ACAS)



North American Palladium (NYSE:PAL)



General Moly



Gramercy Capital



Companies are selected from the "Institutional Ownership Up Last Month" list published on MSN Money on the Saturday following close of trading last week. Recent price provided by Yahoo! Finance. CAPS ratings from Motley Fool CAPS.

Wall Street vs. Main Street
Platinum and palladium, molybdenum and money -- these are some of Wall Street's favorite things this week. But Wall Street's single favorite investment, and the one that pleases CAPS members most of all, is coal.

Just one week ago, Patriot Coal scored four stars on CAPS, and so ceded pride-of-place on this list to five star-rated Pioneer Drilling. But this week, Patriot's claimed that final, fifth star for itself, and topped the list. Let's find out why professional investors and laymen agree that Patriot Coal is a buy, as we review ...

The bull case for Patriot Coal
CAPS member lonewulf47638 loves Patriot's "very low P/E" and points out that "most energy is from coal. Sales growth and earnings are up." DavidSobel points out that: "If you like steel you have to love coal" (which is integral to the making of steel, whether as a component element for old-line steelmakers like U.S. Steel (NYSE:X), or in generating the power needed to run the arc furnaces at the minimills.)

And come to think of it, I do like a few of the steel companies. Just last week, I singled out Steel Dynamics (NASDAQ:STLD) and Nucor (NYSE:NUE) as potential blockbusters.

Our final bull snort comes (curiously) from CAPS All-Star danielthebear. Like lonewulf, Dan likes Patriot's P/E ratio, and calls it: "one of the few decently run companies in the industry. We would need them to about double for them to be fairly valued."

Time wounds all heels
Which raises an interesting point. danielthebear posted his pitch back in November 2009, and since then, the stock has doubled, outperforming the S&P 500 by nearly 100 percentage points. After such a strong run-up, the question naturally arises: Is this as good as it gets, or does Patriot still have room to run?

Judging from its five-star rating on CAPS, it seems a lot of Fools think Patriot can indeed ride again, but when I look at the stock, I have to say that I'm less than convinced.

Now don't get me wrong. Selling for nine times earnings, Patriot sure doesn't look expensive. Rivals like Peabody Energy (NYSE:BTU) and Alpha Natural Resources both command significantly higher P/E ratios. But judging from Wall Street forward estimates, they're also likely to grow much faster than Patriot going forward, boasting 15% five-year growth estimates versus Patriot's 5%. Nor am I particularly enthused about Patriot's history of never generating positive free cash flow (an attribute that I may have mentioned once or twice before.)

Time to chime in
Put it all together, and while I commend danielthebear -- and his fellow bulls -- for picking Patriot early and reaping sizeable gains, I very much fear that this stock's stampede has run its course. It's time to move on and find the next winner.

(Of course, that's just my opinion. You are certainly free to disagree -- and in fact, if you do, we'd love to hear why. Pull up a chair here on Motley Fool CAPS, and tell us all about it.)

Fool contributor Rich Smith  does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked No. 1034 out of more than 145,000 members. The Fool has a disclosure policy.