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 towards superstardom. Here are a handful of four-star firms approaching greatness.

  • Gramercy Capital (NYSE:GKK)
  • Indevus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:IDEV)
  • Owens-Illinois (NYSE:OI)
  • Universal Insurance Holdings (AMEX:UVE)

Some of these names might surprise you. Owens-Illinois, for example, has been bottling beer for decades. Almost great? Familiar names can still offer some of the best opportunities. Perhaps we've just forgotten the potential they 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
Despite announcing Jim Cramer as new company chairman, there's more to than the Mad Money host. It's also true that the financial services industry has had a tough go of it lately, and has become pockmarked with potholes. Third-quarter revenue growth slowed precipitously, and profits turned to losses as a result of weak ad spending. Those are the same forces that have been driving down other online media firms like Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), as well as impacting old-media types like The New York Times (NYSE:NYT).

Yet the firm remains free cash flow positive on the year, and top-rated CAPS All-Star TMFDitty figures if Cramer can achieve what analysts expect of him, TheStreet might just end up being paved with gold:

Is business lousy for financial services? Yes. Is the online ad market going down the tubes? Also yes. But has ample free cash flow, and sizeable cash reserves. If management manages to achieve the 20% growth that Wall Street postulates for it, the stock is undervalued by a good 50%. Time to start outperforming again, Mr. Cramer.

And check us out each week as we have Jim Cramer square off against the best of the CAPS community in a smackdown to see who's got the goods on Wall Street.

Considering the amount of severe weather that swirls around Florida, investing in a property and casualty insurer that operates primarily in that state would seem to be a tough way to make a profit. Yet Universal Insurance isn't standing still; it's seeking to expand its coverage areas, having been approved to write insurance in both North and South Carolina as well as Hawaii. CAPS member porttackstart notes the heartburn-inducing nature of Florida insurance, but also points out that the property and casualty insurer has been increasing the number of policies it writes (the company itself points out that it is one of the top five writers of homeowners' policies in the state):

[Universal Insurance] has a solid expanding business model and an attractive dividend payout. Being a property and casualty insurance company in the state of Florida is definitely risky and the hurricane season will cause you heartburn, but they keep increasing the number of policies written, are expanding into other states, and have solid reinsurance.... [I]f this stock does get noticed, things are bound to improve quickly.

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.