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. A few of these factors are economic policy, political currents, corporate governance, accounting standards, and cultural factors that are at work in different countries. In our recently launched Motley Fool Global Gains service, we take these factors and others into account to scour the earth looking for the most attractive opportunities for subscribers.

I don't have a handful of thoroughly researched ideas to offer you here, but I am having fun mining our new Motley Fool CAPS service to see what other investors are thinking. What is Motley Fool CAPS, you ask? It's a community intelligence database that asks investors to rate stocks. In turn, every investor is ranked, as is every stock. So 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 (though, 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 have all been recommended by at least 10 CAPS participants, have a P/E below 20 and a market cap of more than $10 billion, and are rated as five-star picks (the highest possible) by the CAPS community. As you'll see, there are some easily recognizable names on the list.

Company

P/E

Market Cap

Novartis (NYSE:NVS)

18.8

$135.1 billion

Petroleo Brasileiro (NYSE:PBR)

8.9

$114.8 billion

Canon (NYSE:CAJ)

19.3

$74.6 billion

And the following three companies have all the same qualities as the companies above, but have market caps of less than $5 billion. As you might expect, these companies aren't exactly household names.

Company

P/E

Market Cap

Mechel (NYSE:MTL)

10.1

$4.5 billion

RenaissanceRe Holdings (NYSE:RNR)

5.0

$3.8 billion

Compania Cervecerias Unidas (NYSE:CU)

19.8

$2.1 billion

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 is easiest to gain exposure to Taiwan's economy, for example, with the iShares MSCI Taiwan Index (AMEX:EWT) ETF. 

When you go digging for the world's best stock ideas in a volatile market, 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 CAPS today.

A 30-day free trial of Global Gains is yours for the taking by clicking here.

Nathan Parmelee is a contributing analyst to Global Gains and is ranked No. 274 out of 27,270 investors in CAPS. At the time of publication, he had no financial interest in any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.

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.