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After seeing the stock market rise so far over the past year, you might think that value investors are struggling to find interesting stocks that aren't way overpriced. But even stocks that have seen big gains can still give investors great value for their money.

Now you see them, now you don't
A year ago, value investors had a smorgasbord of cheap stocks to choose from. Some saw opportunity in beaten-down stocks in threatened industries. Buyers of Ford (NYSE: F  ) , for instance, capitalized on extreme pessimism to pick what proved to be the sole survivor of America's Big Three automakers. Others sought refuge in more traditional value stocks like 3M (NYSE: MMM  ) : slow-growing, mature companies with the capacity to make it through even the toughest economic conditions.

Fast-forward to 2010, and most stocks have seen impressive gains. You could hardly have chosen wrong with your stock selection; all you had to do was put money to work last March, and you almost certainly would have been rewarded.

The result, though, is that going forward, it'll take a little digging to find stocks that are good values. The first rule you need to follow in your search: Don't limit yourself arbitrarily by some preconceived notion of what types of stocks are suitable for value investors.

Finding value in growth?
Too many investors believe that in order to be a true value investor, you simply can't look at certain types of stocks. Some value screens go out of their way to weed out stocks that are growing quickly, for example. Such stocks are seen as "growth stocks" and are assumed to be more expensive than a true value investor would want to pay.

If you insist on ignoring parts of the stock market, you'll miss out on some great value opportunities. The market doesn't care which stocks are in which sectors -- as long as a company offers a chance to invest in reasonable future prospects at an attractive price in comparison to its future growth, then it can be just as good a growth stock as any beaten-down blue-chip.

For instance, take a look at these stocks:


Current P/E Ratio

P/E Ratio as of March 31, 2009

1-Year Return





Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  )




eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY  )




Western Digital (NYSE: WDC  )




Fiserv (Nasdaq: FISV  )




Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard and Poor's.

True, these stocks all occupy the technology sector. Technology isn't the first place that many traditional value investors think of, but that doesn't mean you can't find great values there from time to time.

Certainly, last year was one of those great times. Yet despite some phenomenal gains, these tech stocks' P/E ratios haven't risen all that much over the year in question -- and most of them still look fairly attractive. Some have actually seen their P/Es fall in the past year. And while there's more to value than P/E, the trends do show that much of these stocks' gains have come from rebounding earnings following the recession.

What's to come
However, value investors shouldn't expect those stocks to repeat the returns they yielded during the stock market's rally. Gains of 100% and more from value-oriented stocks happen from time to time, but they certainly aren't an everyday occurrence.

That said, even with those big price moves behind them, those stocks could easily see attractive returns for the long run, even from these higher prices. Sure, you would've been happier to have owned them last year -- but the future could remain sweet for these companies, especially in comparison to some of their higher-priced competitors.

Don't get stuck
It may seem strange to you to look at technology stocks from a value perspective. But it's just one more example of how keeping an open mind can bring you investing opportunities that you might otherwise have missed. If you remember that great investments can come from any direction, you'll put yourself in a better position to see them whenever they arise.

Right now, you need all the help you can get. Fortunately, Warren Buffett is on your side. Let Fool contributor Morgan Housel clue you in to Buffett's best advice ever.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger loves to look for value in all the wrong places. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. 3M is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Apple, eBay, and Ford are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread on eBay. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy reminds you that a value stock by any other name would smell as sweet.

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