By Corey Hajim

(FORTUNE Magazine) – What we said

In "Find Bargains With This Tool" (Nov. 10, 2003) we decided to borrow a stock-evaluation approach endorsed by star fund manager Ron Muhlenkamp and others: We screened for companies with high return on equity, low price/earnings ratios, and at least a 10% five-year projected growth rate. The result: five disparate companies that seemed ready to move.

What happened

The five stocks generated an average 34% return since our article appeared vs. 10% for the S&P 500. The biggest winner was insurer WellPoint Health (WLP, $118). Increasing enrollments, decreasing medical costs, and a key merger helped boost its shares 71%. Apache (APA, $59), meanwhile, has ridden galloping oil prices to a 64% gain. The housing boom helped Countrywide Financial (CFC, $36) underwrite enough mortgages to advance 30%. But retailer TJX (TJX, $23), hampered by a tepid response to several new store lines, edged up only 3%. And concerns about a lack of organic growth and excessive acquisitions helped limit shares of real estate and travel company Cendant (CD, $20) to less than a 1% return. -- Corey Hajim