Successful investing requires you to think independently and stick to your convictions. That's hard enough with stocks that are generally popular -- after all, in the stock market, there's a seller for every buyer. But it gets even tougher with stocks that can't seem to find good press or bullish investors anywhere. Of course, defying popular opinion has led many contrarian investors to great returns.

In that spirit, I've headed to Motley Fool CAPS to dig up some unloved stocks that have delivered big gains to shareholders over the past month. Our community of investors has put each of these companies on the bottom two rungs of the CAPS rating scale:

Stock

30-Day Return

One-Year Return

Current CAPS Rating (5 Max)

Pulte Homes (NYSE: PHM)

25.6%

(61.2%)

*

Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM)

15%

(62.1%)

**

MDC Holdings (NYSE: MDC)

13.5%

(22.9%)

**

Continental Airlines (NYSE: CAL)

11.1%

(40.5%)

*

Ryland Group (NYSE: RYL)

11.1%

(42.7%)

*

Home Depot (NYSE: HD)

10.9%

(24%)

**

Data from Motley Fool CAPS as of Jan. 23.

Now, given CAPS' knack for accurately gauging winners and losers, I'm not recommending that you run out and buy these stocks! An index set up to short CAPS' least-liked stocks has outperformed nearly 99% of all other CAPS players. That said, CAPS players have proved overly negative on high-performing stocks such as Crocs and DryShips. Are any of the stocks in our table the same sort of undercover rockets?

Do research? You're kidding!
That's right. The best way to figure out whether any of these stocks is worth considering for your portfolio (real or CAPS) is to roll up those sleeves and dig in a bit. We're looking for stocks that have good fundamentals -- a profitable business, good management, and some decent growth prospects -- despite their lack of popularity.

Does this list contain any such stocks? At this point, I'd strike WaMu off the list. Though it sits at tantalizingly low prices, I see little guarantee of future business prospects. I'm also not a big fan of the airline industry, particularly when it comes to the legacy carriers, so Continental is out, too.

Given the huge amount of uncertainty surrounding the housing industry, I'm still not rushing to jump into homebuilders. However, I am starting to get far more interested in some of the industry's higher-quality companies. Toll Brothers and NVR immediately come to mind, but MDC and Ryland are intriguing as well.

But Home Depot in the wastebasket? This is a high-quality company with a great national presence and a solid brand name. I won't deny that the problems in the housing market, competition with Lowe's (NYSE: LOW), and turmoil during its CEO transition caused the company's gears to get a little gummed up. But the company has a great business that has consistently produced a return on equity in the 20% range, and it operates in a market that may be currently sick, but isn't going away. And did I mention that Home Depot's yielding more than 3% right now?

Don't take my word for it. Check out what one of CAPS' top players, Persuter, had to say about Home Depot last October:

Some of [Home Depot's] current troubles are blamed on the current housing slump but I think that's unwarranted. It's simply experiencing a slowdown right now as it took some missteps and so its stock is no longer "hot." But you don't want to buy "hot" stocks, you want to buy undervalued stocks, which this one is. ... Moreover, they enjoy an extremely dominant mindshare position in the home supplies business.

So what's your take on this group? Is there more value here than I've concluded? Head over to CAPS and let the community of more than 82,000 Fools know what you think. While you're there, you can start your research on any of the other stocks we've mentioned here today or any of the 5,300-plus stocks that have ratings on CAPS.

More CAPS Foolishness:

Washington Mutual is an Income Investor selection. MDC Holdings is a recommendation of Motley Fool Hidden Gems, and Home Depot is an Inside Value pick. You can test-drive any of these investing services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer didn't see these particular moves coming, but he's rarely surprised at Mr. Market's general tomfoolery. You can check out Matt's CAPS portfolio here, or visit his blog. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is never going to give you up, it's never going to let you down, and it's definitely never going to run around and desert you.