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
On Motley Fool CAPS, these opportunities can be found among our four-star stocks. In CAPS' proprietary ratings system, they rank higher than most of the other 5,300 starred companies, but they're just shy of superstardom. While all the attention might be focused on their five-star peers, we can sift through CAPS to find four-star firms approaching greatness. Here are a handful that might be worth further investigation.

  • Chubb (NYSE:CB)
  • Entergy (NYSE:ETR)
  • Flextronics (NASDAQ:FLEX)
  • Humana (NYSE:HUM)
  • Loews (NYSE:L)

Some of these names might surprise you. Property and casualty insurer Chubb, for example, has provided coverage since its founding in 1882. 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 130,000-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?
If Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ:JAVA) realizes the error of its ways and is able to lure IBM back to the merger negotiating table, it's going to be just another sign of the challenges facing the contract electronics manufacturing sector.

Already contract electronics manufacturers like Flextronics and Celestica are having to deal with customers like Nortel Networks declaring bankruptcy, while others like Sony-Ericsson face a contraction in consumer demand. Sony-Ericsson, for example, is Flextronics' largest customer, responsible for more than 10% of revenues.

Last month it forecast a disaster was imminent in handset unit sales, announcing they would fall 40% because of slack consumer demand. The worldwide handset market is expected to decline 10% itself. Industry consolidation as represented by the potential loss of Sun as a customer is another concern.

Such developments have impacted Flextronics' revenues. They shriveled 10% last quarter and analysts anticipate another 22% decline in the current one. To cope, the contract electronics manufacturer has taken drastic measures to restructure its business.

While not specifying just how many jobs it would cut, Flextronics said it plans to take a $235 million restructuring charge over the next two years related to employee severance costs. But just this past December, it completed the elimination of 1,667 workers and recorded restructuring charges of $28.3 million.

As dire as the news is, there's hope for recovery. While Flextronics is undergoing a streamlining process, other businesses similarly have to narrow their focus. That means that rather than performing certain tasks and processes in-house they'll contract them out. Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), for example, is rumored to be considering selling a manufacturing facility in Poland to Flextronics.

The industry shakeout could also serve to get rid of smaller, weaker competitors, either through bankruptcies or acquisition. Flextronics acquired both Solectron and International Display Works over the past few years and some of the smaller rivals may offer up such opportunities again.

As one of the biggest EMS providers, Flextronics attracts the support of investors like top-rated All-Star CAPS member ryanj1178, who thinks it will be rewarded for its cost-cutting maneuvers:

One of the biggest outsourcerer they have been cutting costs and have over a billion in cash. 10 bagger once the economy turns around.

A great opportunity for you
These four-star investments seem to be on their way to five-star greatness; 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 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.