More than half of the world's market cap now sits outside the United States, and the largest IPO in history now belongs to a Chinese bank, ICBC. This distinction could be temporary, depending on how Japan proceeds with its postal savings bank. Either way, it means that many of the world's most established and dynamic growth opportunities are not American companies.

Scouring the globe for value
Successful international investing requires many of the same skills required to evaluate a U.S. company. But in addition to understanding the fundamentals of a business, international investing requires understanding some of the things we take for granted here in the U.S., because we live and breathe them: economic policy, political currents, corporate governance, accounting standards, and cultural factors, among others. In our recently launched Motley Fool Global Gains service, we take these factors and others into account to scour the earth in search of the most attractive opportunities for subscribers.

I don't have a handful of thoroughly researched ideas to offer you here, but I'm having fun mining our new Motley Fool CAPS service to see what other investors think. In case you're wondering, Motley Fool CAPS is a community intelligence database that asks investors to rate stocks. The system aggregates ratings for stocks -- and for the investors who rate them. As more people participate and more time passes, we hope to be able to determine the best investor and the best stock in America, and potentially, the world. (Admittedly, we'll have to roll this thing out of beta-testing before we can start talking about global domination.)

Six all-star foreign companies
The following three stocks all have market caps of more than $20 billion and have earned five-star status (the highest possible rating) from the CAPS community. Don't be surprised to see some familiar firms:


Market Cap

America Movil (NYSE:AMX)

$81.2 billion

Nippon Telegraph & Telephone (NYSE:NTT)

$70.5 billion

Statoil ASA (NYSE:STO)

$53.2 billion

The following three companies all have market caps of less than $5 billion and five-star CAPS ratings. As you might expect, these companies aren't exactly household names:


Market Cap

Siliconware Precision Industries (NASDAQ:SPIL)

$3.7 billion

Braskem (NYSE:BAK)

$2.6 billion

Chemical & Mining Co of Chile (NYSE:SQM)

$349 million

In CAPS, you'll also find ratings on all of the exchange-traded funds that track the markets around the globe. In some cases, it's easiest to gain exposure to companies in Malaysia, for example, with the iShares MSCI Malaysia (NYSE:EWM) ETF.

When you go digging for the world's best stock ideas, it's still crucial to do your due diligence. If you'd like to get started doing just that, come and see what our CAPS investors are actually saying about these companies. To do so, just follow the link to join the free beta test of CAPS today.

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Nathan Parmelee is a contributing analyst to Global Gains. At the time of publication, he had no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.