It's been a full year since we began tracking the "best stocks right now" in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free online investing community. Amazingly, our CAPS community has quadrupled since last January, now comprising more than 81,000 investors.

Before we get to this month's best stocks, let's take a look at how last January's top stocks have done over the past year. On average, the top 10 stocks of January 2007 have only slightly outperformed the S&P 500, but they featured some solid winners, including Sasol and Precision Castparts (NYSE: PCP).

Back to the present
It's been a rough-and-tumble three months for the market, to say the least. The subprime crisis has played havoc with the financial sector, and once-venerated names such as Citigroup (NYSE: C), Freddie Mac, and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) have all suffered painful falls.

Things may appear bleak, but as Mr. Cramer says, there's always a bull market somewhere. In unsure markets like this, however, the bulls can be more difficult to find. That's where Motley Fool CAPS can help. CAPS players rate stocks to either outperform or underperform the market over a specified time period, and the players themselves get rated based on their performance.

Here's this month's list of the top-rated stocks on CAPS.

Company

Market Capitalization

Pride International (NYSE: PDE)

$5.6 billion

Emerson Electric (NYSE: EMR)

$39.3 billion

NATCO Group

$948 million

Tele Norte Leste Participacoes SA (NYSE: TNE)

$8.8 billion

Altius Minerals

$785 million

Sociedad Quimica y Minera

$4.4 billion

ICON

$1.9 billion

Denison Mines

$1.5 billion

AFP Provida

$796 million

HealthExtras

$1.3 billion

Data from Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's), Yahoo! Finance, and Motley Fool CAPS, as of Jan. 15.

Please bear in mind that these are not formal recommendations. Instead, I offer this list as a jumping-off point for further research. In fact, researching five-star CAPS stocks such as these has proved to be an effective tool for investors.

Pride should be proud
With crude-oil prices dancing between $90 and $100 a barrel in recent weeks, it shouldn't surprise Fools that the top stock comes from the oil sector. That's right: For the second month in a row, oil-and-gas driller Pride International graces the CAPS top 10, but this time around, it has secured the celebrated No. 1 spot.

Pride International has more than doubled cash flow from operations in the past two years, but capital expenditures have simultaneously quadrupled since September 2005. That jump may be a bit shocking at first glance, but it makes sense for the company to ramp up expenditures to capitalize on potential growth opportunities. Return on equity has also increased over the past few years and currently sits at 15.5%. The balance sheet also looks healthy, with a current ratio of 2.55 and $880 million in cash.

CAPS investors are rather taken with Pride International -- fully 302 of 304 investors who have rated it believe it will outperform the S&P 500 going forward. General sentiment revolves around Pride's low valuation (a price-to-earnings ratio of 7.8), solid financials, and the potential for industry consolidation, especially following the merger of Transocean (NYSE: RIG) and Global Santa Fe last year.

You can learn what other CAPS investors are saying about Pride International by heading to CAPS for yourself. If you'd like to voice your opinion about this stock -- or any stock, for that matter -- join the Motley Fool CAPS community now and make your voice heard.

Fool contributor Todd Wenning does not own shares of any company mentioned. Sasol is both an Income Investor and Global Gains pick. JPMorgan Chase is also an Income Investor choice. The Fool's disclosure policy once caught a fish that was "this big."