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 160,000-plus-strong CAPS community -- where members give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to some 5,400 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

Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT)

****

5,048

95%

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO)

**

4,764

80%

NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA)

****

4,727

96%

Of course, just because a lot of investors find these stocks interesting doesn't mean they're an automatic addition to your portfolio. You still need to do more research to find out if they're interesting because they're set to take off, or because their stocks are ready for a trip to the cellar.

A tall drink of water
Newsweek proclaims "America's Back!" quickly becoming either the leading indicator of our economic turnaround or a signal it's all about to fall apart very quickly. If it's the latter, we'll have more serious things to worry about, but if the former, then we should very soon expect to see the engines of our economy gaining traction.

Caterpillar would be one of those engines, and already analysts are upgrading its prospects, saying it and other heavy-equipment makers Joy Global (Nasdaq: JOYG) and Ingersoll-Rand (NYSE: IR) are hitting their stride in midcycle, though the real benefits won't accrue for another year or two.

CAPS member DarthMaul09 was already on board the Cat with the prospects for a domestic recovery looking more real, but says the greatest growth opportunities may be found internationally:

I already liked the company for the domestic infrastructure and mining activities that it would benefit from, but sales outside the U.S. may expand as China and now Chile begin new infrastructure projects.

Lost in the wilderness
Sometimes even a halting step in the right direction can seem like a major leap forward, and that's how some analysts are viewing comScore's March search market share results showing a 0.1% increase for Yahoo!. While it's better than the two steps backward we've been witnessing all too often, it's hardly a siege of Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) ramparts, even if its share dropped from 65.5% to 65.1%.

The CAPS community seems to like the management team's direction, though, which would no doubt include its courting of Foursquare. CAPS member RicGrizzly thinks China still holds potential. Still, there hasn't been much to cheer about since Yahoo! outsourced its search engine to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), but these baby steps can end up becoming an all-out sprint.

Jot this down
The iPad could become another one of those cultural icons that revolutionizes the way we view computing, but even in smaller ways it's already having an impact. Graphic chip maker NVIDIA is using the iPad as a benchmark against which it can measure its own progress, looking to position its Tegra mobile computing platform to be the engine that drives competing products.

Yet it's got a number of products coming to market and CAPS member yontboy finds NVIDIA's new Fermi graphics card the one to beat, though not everyone feels that way. Yet with demand for computers and gadgets on the rise, it increases the likelihood it will find more than one road to success.

With more than 4,700 CAPS members weighing in on the graphics card maker, the weight of winning lies heavily in its favor. Join them on the NVIDIA CAPS page and chip in with your own thoughts.

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 watercooler? 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.

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Google is a Rule Breakers pick. NVIDIA is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft.

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.