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With 2012 drawing toward a close, the press is dishing out awards to this year's industry leaders. From Deloitte's Technology Fast 500 to Motor Trend's 2013 Car of the Year, the honorees include some promising picks for investor portfolios. The companies that made the cut span a variety of industries and product categories. Below I've highlighted a familiar face, as well as two up-and-coming stocks to watch in 2013.
The best is yet to come
Of course, no discussion of tech stocks would be complete without mention of the world's most valuable company. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) has had its fair share of ups and downs this year. However, much of the recent volatility will likely dissipate as top executives settle into their new roles. CEO Tim Cook's latest management shuffle most notably pushed longtime employee Eddy Cue into the spotlight.
The 23-year Apple veteran stepped in for Scott Forstall, who was fired last month after the public outrage surrounding the company's new maps service. As a result, Cue will now oversee Apple's Internet services including Apple Maps and Siri. The software and services divisions are critical to Apple's future success. Changes at the top should help the Mac maker refocus on what it does best: product integration.
Additionally, Apple will continue to benefit from its position in the smartphone market. In the coming quarters. it should grow in tandem with the smartphone industry, which according to Gartner, is still growing at 47% annually . Apple is a buy heading into the New Year, especially with shares trading below $600.
Auto body experience
With another year comes another opportunity for growth. Deloitte's awards program, Technology Fast 500, is a great place to start researching investment opportunities. The ranking includes the fastest growing companies across a variety of sectors. Qualifying companies are ranked according to percentage fiscal-year revenue growth during the past five years .
Meanwhile, an auto company, electric-vehicle start-up Tesla Motors' (Nasdaq: TSLA ) focus on innovation and cutting-edge designs allowed it to lead the pack this year. The Palo Alto-based company nabbed the top spot with fiscal year 2011 revenue of $204.24 million and a growth rate of 279,684% from 2007 to 2011, according to Deloitte. However, past performance is no guarantee of future reward.
So, what's Tesla got going for it that's worth watching in the year ahead?For starters: disruption, innovation, and visionary leadership. Throw in Motor Trend magazine's 2013 Car of the Year award and we're on the road to success. For Tesla, this is just the beginning of a very promising growth story. The company's game-changing innovation starts with one of the most advanced electric powertrains the world has ever seen .
However, it's Tesla's disruptive retail strategy that investors should keep an eye on. By opening mall stores around the U.S. and Canada Tesla stands to reinvent the car-buying experience. With so many catalysts working in its favor, Tesla's stock will undoubtedly shoot higher if it's able to ramp up Model S production next year.
Last but hardly least
If you've ever fantasized about printing money, then 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD ) is a tech stock you won't want to miss in the year to come. Similar to Tesla, the three-dimensional printing company is winning through disruptive technology. While widespread adoption of 3-D printing is still several years out, the market for additive manufacturing is growing at breakneck speed .
The stock may be up more than 235% year to date, but the company's strong portfolio of products and patents suggests there's room to run. Moreover, 3D Systems boasts a diversified product roster that ranges from high-end 3-D production printers to more affordable options for personal use .
In the past year, the company's sales have grown at an average annual rate of more than 47% as 3D Systems has found its place within a variety of industries. However, the company's real advantage lies in its market-leading printer-installed base business.
Both 3D Systems and Tesla offer examples of technical innovation at its best. Now that's something to celebrate as we ring in the New Year.
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