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.

In our CAPS community, 150,000 members give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to about 5,400 stocks, seeking businesses they think will outperform the market. Below, we'll take a look at some of the most popular and talked-about stocks in CAPS, and examine whether you think they'll continue their winning ways.

Stock

CAPS Rating
(Out of 5)

Number of Calls

% Outperform Calls

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO)

****

8,980

94%

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

***

15,235

83%

Intel (Nasdaq: INTC)

****

7,306

92%

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)

***

13,496

86%

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT)

***

6,300

88%

A tall drink of water
"It's over, Johnny. It's over!" That memorable quote from Rambo: First Blood also applies to the long-standing relationship between Cisco and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) after Cisco decided not to renew its system integrator agreement with HP.

It was a long time coming, but perhaps it should have been a matter of when the break would finally occur rather than if. What had started as a partnership, with HP acting as a preferred reseller of Cisco's high-end enterprise networking products, had evolved into a turf war where each led skirmishing parties into the other's territory.

Although Cisco may have started the internecine battle by beginning to offer servers last year, Hewlett-Packard responded by buying 3Com (Nasdaq: COMS), which will make it one of Cisco's primary competitors in switches and  routers. Together, they'll have more than 10% of the market, and Cisco felt it made little sense to continue providing a rival with its road map and other sensitive information.

Considering Cisco still owns two-thirds of the Ethernet switch market, the competition from HP may seem like little more than an annoying gnat buzzing around its head right now. But investors are taking notice, though CAPS member HEATH313 still believes Cisco will remain dominant.

I've owned this for some months, at $19.55, so a respectable return. I think it's a solid company with a good history and seems well managed. However, I am watching closely given the HP developments. Still think it's a quality stock so overall remain positive. But I don't own much, only a few k!

Deconstructing the recession
They used to be called "widows and orphans stocks," companies you'd trust with the life savings of the most vulnerable people in society. They might not give you the barnburner growth you find with some momentum stocks, but you didn't want that anyway. You wanted stable businesses offering predictable results, year in and year out. It's why you'd often find utilities occupying the space.

Well, those days are pretty much over, even for utilities, but for some investors, companies like Wal-Mart fill the bill today. CAPS member Bloefeld writes about why it should be in just about every portfolio.

Should be a core stock. Long term stability, amazing management, low operating costs, and ubiquity in the market place are all good reasons to own this stock.

It won't make you a zillionaire fast, but it will not tank and take your life savings either.

Perhaps the biggest concern with a Wal-Mart investment is that the company is a lightning rod for those who view it as the root of all evil. It provides jobs for tens of thousands of people and low prices for consumers; CAPS members like scarrollo view it as simply a mean company.

miserable company, continues to get negative reviews on almost everything they do. They keep importing cheap plastic crap or things that poison people in this country and selling them until they have been discovered and heavily publicized.

Opposing sentiments like those are where the phrase "that's what makes a market" came from. For me, Wal-Mart is a paragon of the free enterprise system and a boon to strapped consumers everywhere. That's why I've gone to the Wal-Mart CAPS page and rated it to outperform the market.

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. 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 companies that interest you.

Intel, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart Stores are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a buy calls position on Intel and a diagonal call position on Microsoft. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.