In many aspects of our lives, whatever we want -- food, books, material comforts -- is within easy reach. Stocks are no exception. No matter what kind of companies you're looking for, a plethora of stock screeners and online analysis means you'll likely be able to find them without breaking a sweat. But despite all of that easily accessed information, finding the stock that has everything you want is not quite as simple as all that.

A stock screen, for example, could certainly find companies that fit your 17 criteria. But when you look for multiple qualifications, it's easy to end up with meager, if any, results.

That's because it's rare for any one company to hit every single measure. And that's OK. A company's yield might be low, but rising quickly. Its P/E may be just out of your desired range, but close enough that it might fall into it any day now. Its debt might be high, but it might be paying it off rapidly. It helps to look at any company's big picture, and that can mean running a series of screens.

Fast growers
For example, many investors look for companies that are experiencing solid revenue and earnings per share (EPS) growth.

When I searched for growth of 10% or more in our CAPS screener, I found dozens of companies, including the following:


3-Year Avg. Revenue Growth

3-Year Avg. EPS Growth

PotashCorp (NYSE:POT)



Monsanto (NYSE:MON)



CVS Caremark (NYSE:CVS)



Data: Motley Fool CAPS.

While growth is a good place to start, it's not enough to make a decision on -- and when you do make up your mind, be sure to think sensibly about the numbers.

If EPS is growing much faster than revenue, it's probably because the company is reducing its share count and/or cutting costs. And if it's posting high growth rates, remember that they won't be sustainable unless revenue rises briskly, too.

It can also be good to see where revenue and earnings are coming from. Is the company making more money by selling more products, or by selling off its value-producing factories? Decisions like the latter can be a red flag.

High returns on equity
High returns on equity are another measure many investors like, because they indicate the company's profitability. Since high ROE can also indicate high debt loads, however, it's important to look for high ROE in combination with a low long-term debt-to-equity ratio. Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM), for instance, sports an ROE of 96%, along with a long-term debt-to-equity ratio topping 2.0.

Here are a few companies with high ROE and low debt:



Long-Term Debt-to-Equity Ratio

UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH)



Halliburton (NYSE:HAL)









Data: Motley Fool CAPS.

Interestingly, I noticed both Monsanto and PotashCorp in this screen as well, suggesting that they have more than a few characteristics I like to see. If you run multiple screens and see some of the same names popping up repeatedly, that's a promising sign.

Value and income
Among other qualities you might screen for: a low price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, high ratings in our CAPS community, or companies with solid dividends.

A low P/E suggests that a stock might be a bargain (and these days, bargains are everywhere). A solid (and, ideally, growing) yield will reward you in good times and bad. A high rating in our CAPS community suggests that other investors think this company is a good buy.

I've rounded up a few candidates that meet all three of those criteria:


CAPS Stars
(out of five)



Philip Morris International




Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY)




General Electric




Data: Motley Fool CAPS.

Interestingly, Philip Morris International shows up here as a good prospect, despite the debt load we mentioned earlier.

Just be careful with the results you get. Don't assume that a P/E of 12 is tantalizing -- it's delectable for a software company, but dubious for a slower-growing car company. Compare P/Es with their historical averages, or with those of industry peers.

Be wary of extra-steep dividend yields, too. They could owe to a falling stock price, possibly for good reason. The best dividends are sustainable and growing.

The kitchen sink
Whatever measures you use, just be sure to examine the entire big picture for the companies you're considering. Yes, the numbers are helpful, but you'll also need to figure out what sustainable competitive advantages your candidates have, and how rapidly they might grow. Be sure that they're healthy, too, with ample cash and little or manageable debt.

It's important to be thorough when you study companies. If you'd like us to do much of the legwork for you, I invite you to test-drive our market-beating Motley Fool Inside Value service to see a list of the companies our analysts think are "Best Buys Now."

Our Inside Value analysts look at companies from lots of angles, assessing their managements, their track records, and their growth potential. Best of all, they seek stocks trading for considerably less than they seem to be worth -- and they investigate much more than a mere P/E ratio to figure that out. You can get a free, 30-day trial by just clicking here.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of General Electric and eBay. Monsanto and UnitedHealth Group are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Baidu is a Rule Breakers recommendation. eBay and UnitedHealth Group are Stock Advisor choices. Philip Morris International is a Global Gains recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread on eBay. The Fool owns shares of UnitedHealth Group. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.