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 150,000-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)

Number of Calls

% Outperform Calls

Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI)

****

1,100

96%

Bucyrus International (NASDAQ:BUCY)

****

1,081

96%

Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL)

****

1,119

95%

Gerdau (NYSE:GGB)

****

1,096

97%

Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP)

****

1,093

96%

A tall drink of water
The extent to which China ultimately applies the brakes on its economic growth will determine how well or poorly some companies ultimately fare. After a rip-snorting 2009, the country is poised for a repeat performance this year with GDP growth forecast at 9.5%, according to a report from China Construction Bank.

Many think the country will try to throw cold water on expansion to keep the economy from overheating. That could ultimately affect heavy equipment manufacturers like Bucyrus International, Joy Global (NASDAQ:JOYG), and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT).

However, some analysts aren't so sure. According to a China Securities Journal report, inflation will increase by only 3% this year, while investments will jump 26% compared to last. While that's a slightly slower pace than what was experienced in 2009, analysts are forecasting that new stimulus spending by the government to keep consumption going. While that infusion of government cash will eventually need to be reined in, the expected contraction might not rear its head anytime soon.

With Bucyrus acquiring Terex's mining operations in a smart bolt-on acquisition that will foster earnings within the first year of acquisition, the equipment maker will benefit in the long run from the industrialization of emerging economies and the continuing need for resources in the already developed countries.

CAPS member sternworm is looking for Bucyrus to recover from its oversold position as a result:

Maker of huge earth moving, sci fi looking machines. Oversold during this correction. Stock was at 68 just a few weeks ago. Target price in the mid 70s before the end of the year.

You'd be hard-pressed to find many CAPS members arguing with that assessment. A paltry 3% of the more than 1,100 members that rated the heavy-machinery maker indicate they don't think it will outperform the broad market averages. You can mine additional opinions on the Bucyrus International CAPS page, as well as add your own thoughts on its future.

Deconstructing the recession
According to the Association of American Railroads, freight moving by rail in January slipped by 0.7% compared with the year-ago period, but coal shipments -- accounting for half of all carloads -- dropped by more than 12%. That was reflected in the fourth-quarter results posted by Union Pacific, the country's largest railroad operator, which reported that energy-related revenues were off 22% from last year.

Still, Union Pacific's profits fell less than analysts had predicted, and while 10% unemployment makes a broad recovery difficult, the railroad believes freight shipments have stabilized.

Although the vast majority of CAPS members rating the railroad believe in its future outperformance, probabilityzero sees the share price being propped up by external forces:

The price of railroads are being propped up due to forces out of their control. The purchase of [Burlington Northern Santa Fe] by Berkshire Hathaway has increased interest in the railroads. In addition, their deep moats have created an implied place of safety. The risk of reregulation I think is minimal since there is already extensive oversight by several government agencies. Many of the Class I railroads volumes are down to early 2000's levels which I would not expect to recover but at a pace in line with the general economy.

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 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.

Berkshire Hathaway is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection and a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway.

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.