The best time to buy companies is when their stocks take a short-term hit. That means that right now, opportunities are plenty as we observe the best investment values in a decade. Beaten-down giants such as Citigroup (NYSE:C), Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S), and Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) are showing up on everyone's screens.

But, as smart investors, we have to learn to separate the outrageously cheap stocks from the garbage.

With this in mind, I went to our Motley Fool CAPS screener looking for stocks that:

  • Had market caps greater than $1 billion.
  • Are sitting more than 50% below their 52-week high.
  • Moved from a four-star to a five-star rating on CAPS during the past two months.

Before I share the results, keep in mind that since we started at the end of 2006, five-star stocks as a group have outperformed the S&P 500 by 12 percentage points, while one-star stocks underperformed by roughly 11 percentage points, annualized. So an upward boost in our community's rating could signal a good time to buy.

Here are the results:

Company

Market Capitalization

Industry

Carpenter Technology (NYSE:CRS)

$1.7 billion

Metals & Mining

Tata Motors (NYSE:TTM)

$3.6 billion

Automotive

Telecom Argentina (NYSE:TEO)

$2.6 billion

Telecommunications

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH)

$35.6 billion

Health Services

 Source: Motley Fool CAPS as of 8/6/08.

A diverse group of companies, but all of them seem to have more upside potential than downside risk, and our community of more than 110,000 investors seems to agree. To voice your opinion on these stocks, or to check out other top-ranked stocks, join our CAPS community now.

Adam J. Wiederman owns no shares of the companies mentioned above. Sprint Nextel and UnitedHealth are Motley Fool Inside Value picks, Tata Motors is a Motley Fool Global Gains pick, and UnitedHealth is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. The Fool's disclosure policy buys only on dips.