From tiny acquisitions to massive conglomerate combinations, Wall Street's urge to merge remains strong. How can we tell the dynamite deals from the disasters-in-the-making?

Breaking down the buildup
To help, we'll turn to the 130,000-plus investors in Motley Fool CAPS. A combination of two companies with high CAPS ratings should bode well for the new firm's future results, while a high-rated company that joins a lower-rated one may benefit one set of investors more than the other.

Despite troubles in the capital markets, the deals won't stop; they simply might involve more stock and less cash. Or, like this week, they might just slow to a trickle. Here are a handful of recently announced deals, and the ratings for each participating company on CAPS' five-star scale:

Acquirer

CAPS Rating

Target

CAPS Rating

Deal Price

Hearst

NR

Hearst-Argyle Television

***

$375 million

Cox Enterprises

NR

Cox Radio

*

$69.1 million

Suncor Energy (NYSE:SU)

****

Petro-Canada (NYSE:PCZ)

*****

$15.5 billion

Shenandoah Telecommunications

**

North River Telephone Cooperative

NR

undisclosed

Affiliated Computer Services (NYSE:ACS)

**

e-Services Group International

NR

$85 million

Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL)

****

Relsys International

NR

Undisclosed

Waste Connections

*****

Potrero Hills Landfill fromRepublic Services (NYSE:RSG)

****

undisclosed

CAPS ratings courtesy of Motley Fool CAPS; NR = not rated.

Into it deep
Call it a wager on the future. The merger of Suncor Energy and Petro-Canada looks like a bet that energy prices will continue to rise, making the combined company an even more formidable player in Canada's oil sands.

Plummeting crude oil prices last year made the economics of oil sands production projects more unappealing, driving both companies to postpone projects. Other players such as Teck Cominco (NYSE:TCK) and StatoilHydro (NYSE:STO) have followed suit. In the fourth quarter, Suncor saw its operating costs rise to more than $41 a barrel, though they averaged $38.50 for the year. With oil sale prices now topping $50 a barrel, and expected to rise in the years ahead, the value proposition for oil sands projects looks much brighter. A Suncor/Petro-Canada merger could be a potentially profitable union.

Back in 2006, Suncor was able to keep costs low, with an average cost of production of $21.70 a barrel. That figure jumped to $27.80 in 2007. A lower-cost environment today, coupled with higher oil prices, might help Suncor exert tighter control over costs than it recorded in the most recent quarter.

Top-rated CAPS All-Star imajerbear is also looking to the future:

Oil and gas may be deep in to it right now, but long term as the world economy pulls itself up by it's [bootstraps], oil will make a comeback. Alt energy is wonderful, but it will take many years for it to make a significant dent in the use of oil. The days of easy extraction of oil are gone and some of the petroleum resources ie oil shale will require prices above $80 long term to exploit them economically. Oil fields around the world are showing decreases, some major, in their output. I am also convinced that OPEC is actually seriious this time about toeing the line on production reductions to try to drive the price of oil to the $70 mark or better.

A value-added offer
What's your take on these deals? Let us know on Motley Fool CAPS. While you're there, you can start your own research on these or other stocks. 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. It's a great way to help sort matches made in investing heaven from relationships headed for the rocks.

Republic Services and StatoilHydro are Income Investor picks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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