They don’t call ‘em “experts” for nothing. For years, InvestorPlace‘s top minds have been helping investors make sense of the market while leading them toward wealth through both prudent long-term strategies and aggressive short-term plays.
While every successful adviser and stock-picker can recount a slew of smart decisions that gradually built the mountain of returns, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as thumping your chest and pointing out the game-changing pick that really made your year. And four of our advisers — Jon Markman (Trader’s Advantage), Bryan Perry (Cash Machine), Louis Navellier (Blue Chip Growth) and Hilary Kramer (GameChangers) — had a few home-run shots this year.
But like any great champion, these advisers aren’t sitting back and admiring the fruits of their work — they’re already thinking ahead to next year. And that’s why in addition to reviewing the greats that were, these advisers also are ready to give you the stock picks they think will define a successful 2012.
Here are the InvestorPlace experts’ big winners of 2011 and their top trades for 2012.
Jon Markman’s Big Winner of 2011
I recommended Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG) July $350 Calls on my expectation that the stock would act at the end of June as it headed into earnings much as it did at the end of March. That is, ISRG would blast out of a short-term downtrend and set a new high.
I was right. In just one day, shares surged and traders banked a 23% gain. Two days later, ISRG fulfilled my goal of hitting a new all-time high and investors captured a 102% gain. We went on to close the remaining position up a whopping 106%, truly capturing lightning in a bottle.
ISRG has been one of the best stocks of the recent era, outpacing even Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and it was easy money for traders.
Visit Markman’s Trader’s Advantage here. The service provides a mix of technical analysis and fundamental research to identify stocks ready to break out, regardless of market environment.
Jon Markman’s Top Trades for 2012
My research suggests the majority of investors underestimate the trouble that lies ahead for Europe as it enters a deep and prolonged recession. By the same token, the research suggests emerging markets will get dragged down in the wake of Europe’s decline because they’re key export markets, suppliers of raw materials and depend on French and German banks for credit. And the research suggests the U.S. will not be able to withstand the loss of buying power overseas, and that will drag down earnings of most companies.
I think companies that are the most dependent on government subsidies, such as alternative energy producers, will experience the most trouble as their fundamental business declines and their sugar daddies close their credit lines.
So just to make it simple, the easiest trades next year will likely be to short iShares S&P Europe 350 Index (NYSE:IEV) index, short iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (NYSE:EEM) and short solar energy equipment producers like First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR). But you can pair them against a long of Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (NYSE:XLP) that tends to do fairly well — if not actually great — when times get tough, as well as a corporate bond fund such as the Vanguard Long-Term Investment-Grade Bond (MUTF:VWESX) fund or the exchange-traded iShares iBoxx Investment Grade Corporate Bond (NYSE:LQD) fund.
Bryan Perry’s Big Winner of 2011
Terra Nitrogen (NYSE:TNH) proved a solid play for Cash Machine high-yield investors in 2011. It’s a high-yielding agriculture stock that delivers a fat dividend and serious upside capital appreciation. We first bought in at $93.19 and shares soared from there, exceeding my $120 target by a long shot. I recommended investors cash out their shares when it traded upwards of $192, and we banked a cool 118% gain, including dividends.
But this story isn’t over yet — far from it. BRIC and frontier economies are seeing the rise of middle classes, and incomes, which is driving a strong demand for quality food products. This is changing the global secular bull market for food and is a key reason why I am hugely positive on the fertilizer market — and TNH — moving forward. I recommended investors to jump back into this money tree in September, and we’ve seen nothing but upside from there. It’s hard to beat a 10.2% dividend yield in a sector that is fast becoming one of 2012’s hottest investment themes.
Visit Perry’s Cash Machine here. The service offers a steady, long-term look at the market for investors seeking reliable income, even through the market’s frequent tantrums.
Bryan Perry’s Top Trade for 2012
Continuing the fertilizer theme is CVR Partners (NYSE:UAN), the nation’s low-cost producer of nitrogen fertilizer. With the secular bull market for food commodities fully intact, I expect UAN to generate accelerating profits and distributions in 2012. Consider this: The primary input for producing nitrogen fertilizer is natural gas. With natural gas prices at near historic lows, and prices for corn fertilizer near all-time highs, profit margins are extremely healthy.
And the numbers don’t lie. UAN went public in April 2011 at $15 per share. From there, it was five times oversubscribed, opened at $16.75, rallied to $27.75 in mid-September, and has since cooled off to its current price of $24. The partnership declared a third-quarter distribution of 57.2 cents, implying a forward dividend yield of 9.82%. The stock trades for less than 12 times forward estimates, has a very low payout ratio of 44 and boasts year-over-year quarterly revenue growth at 66%. Count on continued momentum for this fertilizer stock in the new year, upwards of $35.
Louis Navellier’s Big Winner of 2011
My recommendation to buy select retail stocks bewildered Wall Street experts throughout 2011. But I saw what they didn’t: Consumers were spending money even though consumer confidence was falling. That’s one reason why it comes as no surprise to me that one of my top performers of the past 12 months — up 33% year-to-date — was specialty retailer Limited Brands (NYSE:LTD).
LTD is the company behind the Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works and La Senza (Canada only) brands. In the most recent quarter, LTD saw same-store sales rise 6%, while big chain retailers like Gap (NYSE:GPS) saw sales drop 4%. Limited already has revised fourth-quarter and full-year 2012 expectations higher, and I see it as a strong performer in the months to come.
Visit Navellier’s Blue Chip Growth here. The service offers advice on how to leverage the market’s corporate behemoths to profits. Navallier also offers a number of other services, including Emerging Growth, Global Growth and Portfolio Grader.
Louis Navellier’s Top Trade for 2012
In 2012, there are going to be pockets of strength in a number of sectors, and you want broad exposure to reduce risk and maximize gains. One of those pockets is in big blue chips with dividends. The race to safety is under way, and these stocks, known for steady and reliable profits and payments, are seeing increases in buying pressure. As a result, many will outperform those hot stock tips or IPOs usually associated with big profits.
My pick to capitalize on this pocket of strength is Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI) — it’s an excellent large-cap stock that yields a hefty 5.4%. Management recently announced a massive stock buyback program to the tune of $2.5 billion though mid-2014. The company also raised its full-year outlook, which is a great sign for the year ahead. Now, tobacco companies will always get bad press and regulatory sparks, but in my experience, these are great buying opportunities. If you add to your shares on any short-term dips, you’re going to be very pleased with your profits — and still earn a 5.4% dividend.
Hilary Kramer’s Big Winner of 2011
One of the biggest scores this year in my GameChangers service was Telvent, which bagged us 50% profits in 2011 and 60% going back to when we first bought it in November 2010.
We look for growth companies that are revolutionizing the way we live, and Telvent fit the bill. It’s a fascinating global company in the information business — from controlling traffic at 9,000 intersections around the world to controlling the flow of oil through pipelines to weather forecasting for farmers and the Boston Red Sox. We locked in our gains when the company announced in early June that it would be acquired.
Visit Kramer’s GameChangers here. The service seeks out the companies that revolutionize our lives — the Apples and Dendreons of the world — and in the process, richly reward their shareholders. Kramer also offers other services including Breakout Stocks Under $5 and High Octane Stocks.
Hilary Kramer’s Top Trade for 2012
Looking ahead to 2012, I see more game-changing opportunities, especially in areas like health care and technology. Take cloud computing. If you use Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Gmail, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), iTunes or Facebook, you’re already using cloud computing, which basically is Web-based storage. It’s cool for consumers, but it’s revolutionary for businesses around the world because it saves money.
The cloud-computing industry is expected to almost triple during the next couple of years, and my favorite play right now is EMC (NYSE:EMC). The stock is a rare triple play — it’s aggressively moving into an innovative new technology (the cloud), gaining market share in its existing core business and increasing profitability. The stock is a bargain at less than 14 times next year’s expected earnings, and I’m looking for it to be nearly a double from current prices.
Check out InvestorPlace.com’s other looks back at 2011 and ahead to 2012 here.