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, 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 companies approaching greatness:

  • Agnico-Eagle Mines (NYSE:AEM)
  • Barclays (NYSE:BCS)
  • JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO)
  • LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK)

Some of these names might surprise you. Barclays, for example, has been banking since Louis XIV was king of France and Czar Peter the Great ruled Russia. 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 120,000-plus CAPS members chose these companies as less obvious sources for tomorrow's great buys, so let's see why they might merit your attention.

In the sight of greatness
There's been a lot of conflicting opinions about whether sunny days remain ahead of the solar industry or if the future is cloudy. GT Solar (NASDAQ:SOLR) was able to beat analyst expectations for its latest quarter, for example, but polysilicon prices, tight credit, declining government subsidies worldwide, and the prospects of weaker demand in the face of lower oil prices have some believing that LDK Solar and other such plays are in for stormy weather.

CAPS member ivansyswht says he can only see expansion and growth ahead:

are you kidding? this company is on its way to be the largest solar company on the planet, not to mention the fact that it has official government backing on its ongoing expansion projects. I must have missed the joke that sent LDK's stock price below $20. Any price below $30 for this company is a friggin' steal.

In the supermarket of ideas, being a low-cost producer can certainly be a profitable endeavor when the economy tanks. When your products or services are as essential as supermarket chain SUPERVALU's are -- after all, who doesn't need to eat? -- you ought to be in the express lane to growth. Yet, the value offered hasn't been as apparent as it's been at competitor Kroger (NYSE:KR), which is seen as an everyday low-price chain rather than one that's responding to the current crisis.

CAPS member 1hobbesjr thinks that the situation will change shortly, however. With stores being remodeled and private label products forming a bigger component of sales, SUPERVALU's value will become apparent.

price, low p/e, maintaining profits despite fuel costs and despite higher number of stores being remodeled. Remodeled stores being completed quicker with sales increases afterwards. Good quality private label goods with consumers purchasing more of those in tough times. Pretty impressive considering recent aquisition of albertsons and the economic conditions. Also, have been upgrading warehouses for higher production effeciency. Proving to be a huge benefit and savings. UP UP & AWAY!

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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Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Kroger but does not have a financial position in any of the other stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.