Investors are always hunting for the next big stock -- the dream stock whose price increases several times over when the market finally discovers it. It's easy to look back and discover the 10 best stocks of the past decade. But I'm more interested in the tools that can help me evaluate tomorrow's greatest companies.

Motley Fool CAPS offers a variety of resources to aid Fools in finding tomorrow's leaders. Our 145,000-member community is full of investors helping each other beat the market.

We'll enlist CAPS to screen for dividend-paying companies, then get the story behind some of its more highly rated stocks. CAPS' nifty screener will help us find stocks with:

  • A market cap of at least $1 billion.
  • A long-term debt-to-equity ratio of less than .5.
  • A dividend yield of at least 4%.
  • A price-to-earnings ratio of less than 25.

Then we'll tap the collective intelligence of our CAPS members to see whether these companies present real opportunities -- or whether the numbers fail to tell the true story.

Opinions with the numbers
Below is a sample of stocks our screen returned.

Company

Dividend Yield

LT Debt-to-Equity Ratio

CAPS Rating
(out of 5)

Total (NYSE:TOT)

5.4%

0.39

*****

NYSE Euronext (NYSE:NYX)

5.1%

0.32

*****

Toronto-Dominion Bank (NYSE:TD)

4.0%

0.35

****

Data and star rankings from CAPS as of Jan. 22. LT = long-term.

Total
Many CAPS members take comfort in the size of French oil giant Total, as well as its strategic partnerships around the globe. In its recent deal with Chesapeake Energy, Total gains a stake in Chesapeake's Barnett Shale operations as well as valuable expertise in unconventional exploration, which it can use in other areas. The move follows other European companies that are banking on U.S. gas exploration that was once dominated by smaller companies including Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN), Southwestern Energy (NYSE:SWN), and Chesapeake. And Total's growing friendship with China National Petroleum Corp. could lead to new opportunities as the two discuss tackling several projects around the world.

With all the opportunities ahead of Total, nearly 98% of the 770 CAPS members rating it expect it to outperform the market.           

NYSE Euronext
With NYSE Euronext's long-standing history in the United States and growing international presence in recent years, many CAPS members like its potential. Its widely recognized name attracted a strong showing of initial public offerings last year compared to competitors like Nasdaq OMX Group (NASDAQ:NDAQ), and it expects a big increase in IPOs from Chinese companies this year. The company also looks to create synergies and boost its reach with its acquisition of trading technology provider NYFIX.

With a five-star rating in CAPS, many members give the company good odds to beat the market going forward. In fact, 97% of the 2,515 members rating the stock have given it a thumbs-up.                                    

Toronto-Dominion Bank
Despite lingering exposure to credit losses in the U.S. that banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) are dealing with, TD Bank reported a strong fiscal fourth quarter in which it used its strong financial position to take market share and add new branches in Canada. Its adjusted earnings beat Wall Street's estimates and it saw a huge boost in its wholesale banking segment. Many investors like the solid dividend that the bank pays and also have confidence in the long-term outlook for Canadian banks in general.

In CAPS, 93% of the 431 members rating Toronto-Dominion Bank expect it to outperform the market.

Let 145,000 members be the jury
The collective wisdom of a huge pool of investors can help give context to a page of numbers from a stock screen. But individual investors are still the best judges of what to do with their own money. Fools should always perform their own due diligence.

Happily, it's easy to chime in with your own opinion. If you agree that these companies present dream opportunities -- or you see more of a nightmare instead -- simply scroll down and add your thoughts in the comments box.

Many solid companies that pay great dividends have made the recommended list of the Motley Fool Income Investor service. To see all the dividend-paying stocks that have the service beating the market by more than seven points on average, take a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock dreams of stocks and sugarplum fairies, but not together. He owns no shares of companies here. Chesapeake Energy and Nasdaq OMX Group are Inside Value recommendations. NYSE Euronext is a Rule Breakers choice. Total is an Income Investor recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a write puts position on Nasdaq OMX Group. The Fool owns shares of Chesapeake Energy. The Fool's disclosure policy screens the good, the bad, and the ugly.