As more business goes online, the more efficient transactions from electronic commerce companies has helped their investors profit handsomely. But I've found investments from another sector that are beating the pants off e-commerce stocks -- and I know where you can find out more about them.

Would the real hot stocks please come forward?
The 5,400 stocks that our Motley Fool CAPS community members have rated include descriptive "tags" that group them with other companies sharing similar qualities -- a country of origin, a sector, or an end product, for example. Clicking the e-commerce tag pulls up a list of 19 stocks that collectively have risen 13.8% in the past year.

But CAPS tags can also lead you to stocks that have outpaced the returns from the e-commerce group: Technical Services. These 17 companies have averaged a more impressive 25.5% return in the past year.

Each group has its share of winners and losers, of course, but CAPS can be a great resource for zeroing in on potential opportunities in each area.

From macro to micro
You can sort tag groups by their CAPS ratings, from one to a maximum five stars, and then see which players -- from Wall Street to Main Street -- are bullish or bearish on the company, and why.

For instance, here are a few of the stocks in the e-commerce group:

Company

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

1-Year Performance

Ctrip.com (Nasdaq: CTRP)

****

68%

eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY)

***

(17%)

Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN)

**

139%

Overstock.com (Nasdaq: OSTK)

*

(39%)

Sources: Google Finance and Motley Fool CAPS, as of Feb. 17.

Now, here's a sampling of technical services stocks that investors may want to consider -- judging by interest in the CAPS community.

Company

CAPS Rating

1-Year Performance

SAIC (NYSE: SAI)

*****

1%

AECOM Technology (NYSE: ACM)

*****

35%

Jacobs Engineering

*****

63%

URS

****

5%

Sources: Google Finance and Motley Fool CAPS, as of Feb. 17.

Living off Uncle Sam
If you haven't tuned in to any of the presidential primary debates, you may have missed that the U.S. government has been a big spender over the past several years. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as spending on homeland security, has been a boon for companies like SAIC that provide a wide range of technical products and services -- from unmanned vehicles for the military to process-improvement software. And it's not just the federal government: A plethora of state and foreign agencies need SAIC's services as well.

SAIC, based in San Diego, was one of the largest employee-owned private companies in California until it held its $1 billion IPO in 2006, making shares available to the public for the first time since it was founded in 1969. Since going public, though, shares of the $7.7 billion company have been essentially flat. While revenue has indeed been growing fairly steadily at roughly a 10% annual rate over the past five years, operating income has been growing below this level and earnings have been erratic as the company acquires lots of companies -- and sells some off, as well.

With all the lucrative contracts available, SAIC has had to deal with stiff competition from other government contractors like General Dynamics, L-3, and Accenture, which keeps pressure on margins. But management said it hopes to maintain SAIC's internal organic growth at 6% to 9% per year over the next several years and improve its operating margins. A solid number of CAPS investors thinks that the company can realize these improvements: Of the 587 who rate it, 559 see it outpacing the market.

Building a bridge to profitsTechnical services firm AECOM has experienced robust growth thanks to government spending, too; it supplies human resources for a wide variety of infrastructure projects around the world. Like SAIC, though, much of AECOM's growth comes from consolidation in the industry. To this end, AECOM recently acquired Earth Tech for $510 million from Tyco (NYSE: TYC), helping to shore up its position in the water and wastewater markets.

Because of its $6.8 billion backlog that is 25% higher than last year, many CAPS investors are bullish on AECOM. Indeed, 99% of investors rating the company give it the thumbs-up.

Before you buy ...
Of course, investors shouldn't look in the rearview mirror to see where they should be investing now. But the underlying reasons behind dramatic run-ups in stocks or groups of stocks can clarify macroeconomic trends that may significantly affect investments. Just make sure to do your own due diligence rather than following crowds or individual recommendations.

Priceline.com has returned 419% since being recommended by the Motley Fool Stock Advisor service in June 2004. To see what other stocks Tom and David Gardner are picking to beat the market, take a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Dave Mock says he lags more than he leads when it comes to running long distances. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Dave is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. eBay is another Stock Advisor recommendation, Ctrip.com is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation, and Tyco, SAIC, and Accenture are Inside Value recommendations. The Fool's disclosure policy beats all other disclosure policies, year in and year out.