As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

In this series, though, we highlight a possible exception -- the collective wisdom of our CAPS community. Read the next section if you're unfamiliar with our methodology. Skip to the next if you want to go straight to the results.

Why this crowd is different
Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (i.e., a "buy") or underperform rating (i.e., a "sell") in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The No. 1 buy in conglomerates
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the top stock that's classified as a conglomerate (and the top runners-up) based on the number of CAPS members who have rated the stock an outperform. Only stocks garnering a four or five-star rating are included. 

Company

Market Capitalization (in millions)

Outperform Picks

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

General Electric (NYSE: GE)

$167,852

14,515

****

United Technologies (NYSE: UTX)

$66,215

1,384

****

Danaher Corporation (NYSE: DHR)

$24,506

405

****

PPG Industries, Inc. (NYSE: PPG)

$11,073

274

****

Mitsui & Co. (Nasdaq: MITSY)

$24,337

134

****

Crane Co. (NYSE: CR)

$2,093

121

*****

Source: Motley Fool CAPS as of August 12, 2010.

More CAPS members think General Electric is a buy than any other four- or five-star conglomerate. If you were looking for Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B), it doesn't show up because it's classified in the insurance industry. If you totaled up the supporters of the A shares and the B shares, Berkshire would have finished second to GE in these rankings.

Do you think a different stock deserves to be the No. 1 buy? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these popular stocks.

As for me, I've had a long-standing outperform call on Berkshire Hathaway. You can see my CAPS profile here.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway. The Fool has a disclosure policy.