Some companies are obviously great investments -- in hindsight. Yet for every stock out there screaming "buy me," others simply give us a nudge and a nod. How can we tell tomorrow's obviously great investments from the thousands of pretenders?

The stars' walk of fame
The data shows that stocks achieving five-star ratings on Motley Fool CAPS have outperformed the market by 12 percentage points in the first 20 months of CAPS, and newly minted five-star stocks represent your best opportunity to capture those returns. So let's sift through the proprietary ratings system and find those stocks heading toward superstardom. Here are a handful of four-star firms approaching greatness.

  • Allianz (NYSE:AZ)
  • Bare Escentuals (NASDAQ:BARE)
  • Portugal Teleco (NYSE:PT)
  • Textron (NYSE:TXT)

Some of these names might surprise you. Although KBR, for example, was formally separated from Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) last year, it's been providing oil industry services for decades. Almost great? Even familiar names can still offer some of the best opportunities. Perhaps we've just forgotten the potential they still hold. However, the 115,000-plus CAPS investors chose these companies as less obvious sources for tomorrow's great buys so let's see why they might merit your attention.

Lisbon calling
Where telecom services are considered a mature industry here in the U.S., elsewhere in the world they represent an exciting growth opportunity. Similar to where AT&T (NYSE:T) stood, back when it was still Ma Bell, Portugal Telecom has a near monopoly on providing landline service in the country and almost half the cell phone customers. CAPS member JMJeffrey sees that as an easy case for dialing up an outperform along with the fact that it owns a 50% stake in Brazil's top cell phone company Vivo:

Your basic European quasi-monopoly telecommunication provider selling at a 52-week low with a large growth upside. Hmmm...what do they speak in Basil? Yep, 50% stake in the leading telecom provider Vivo. They also have stakes in other growing countries. The margins on this business is good and the International investments in Vivo and others are making significant contributions to the bottom line. The yield is great ... and there is a 3 billion dollar share buy back to happen this year... So why is the share price so depressed for a large, solid, European telecom with unusually large growth staring it in the face?

A gorgeous opportunity?
Cosmetics seem so commodified that any company wanting to distinguish itself from Avon Products, Revlon, or Estee Lauder may require a gimmick. (Think neon-colored lip gloss.) Bare Escentuals hasn't resorted to publicity stunts to gain attention; instead, it makes lighter, healthier cosmetics that don't contain talc and preservatives. While that's attracted the attention of the analysts at Hidden Gems and Rule Breakers, CAPS member CodeJedi points to one sign that its future growth has yet to peak:

Lots of potential with a decent margin of safety. My wife says their available in Target now which should greatly broaden their sales channel and increase their exposure.

Yet some investors, including CAPS member IHadJacks, remain unconvinced: "Bare Escentuals is the developer of a fad product, there is no long term brand strategy with the exception of being acquired by the likes of L'Oreal or Unilever. Sadly this will only happen if suddenly the emperor which wears no clothes finds a tailor."

A great opportunity for you
These four-star investments are on their way to five-star greatness, and it pays to start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS. 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.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.