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 125,000-strong CAPS community -- where members give the thumbs-up or thumbs-down to some 5,400 stocks -- has shown a propensity for making prescient market calls. Our data indicates that newly minted five-star stocks offer some of the best opportunities to investors, while the lowest-rated companies fared worst. Below we'll take a look at some of the top stocks in the CAPS universe that you're talking about the most and whether you think they will outperform or underperform the market.


CAPS Rating
(5 stars max.)

No. of Calls

% Outperform Calls

MasterCard (NYSE:MA)




UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH)




Verizon (NYSE:VZ)




Qualcomm (NYSE:QCOM)




Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC)




A tall drink of water
In what could be the biggest security breach ever, Heartland Payment Systems (NYSE:HPY) warned that hackers had cracked its security to access the system it uses to process more than 100 million credit card transactions. It got wind of the breach last fall from MasterCard and Visa, but the company was unable to find any evidence a breach had occurred. Only last week did the company finally obtain solid proof, leaving many months during which its customer data was at risk.

Although it's the biggest payment processor to get hit, it's not the first, and consumers will undoubtedly continue to use their credit cards despite the potential dangers. That's one of the reasons top-rated CAPS All-Star member becon800 considers MasterCard a cheap value right now: "[MasterCard] is low enough where you can make a quick 10-20%, but caution, it could go down another 20% on fear. My line of thinking is-people will still charge and with [MasterCard] its not on their dime."

A pin drop
When I see the Sprint (NYSE:S) commercials featuring CEO Dan Hesse awestruck by all the neat things smartphones can do these days, I'm not particularly moved to sign up for service with his company. Instead, I think he looks somewhat out of touch with his industry. After all, these technological advances have been with us for awhile, yet his commercials make it sound like he's just discovered all these gee-whiz gadgets today.

Better are the Verzion commercials showing the power of the network behind them, even if they do still feature that geeky "can you hear me now" guy. Apparently, many others are similarly impressed with Verizon's ads; CAPS All-Star devoish notes the level of activity he's found at Verizon's wireless stores:

The [Verizon] store was busy around thanksgiving, still busy before Christmas when I lost my phone, busy the next week when I did not want to pay $200 and still busy two days ago when I they got me. I picked up a late model Voyager for $99 stayed "in network" with my friends and family, signed a two year contract and have to remember to cancel the free trials. I'll use the navigator with traffic a few times a year for $3.99/[month] etc, etc. and probably use the email. This company pays a dividend and I am forgetting the names of their competitors.

Gather 'round
The CAPS community is like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. 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 where 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.

Heartland Payment Systems is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. UnitedHealth Group and Sprint Nextel are Inside Value picks. UnitedHealth is a Stock Advisor recommendation and a Motley Fool holding. Try any of our Foolish newsletters 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 here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.