Despite the market's volatility this year, 2012 is shaping up to be a surprisingly ordinary year. The S&P 500 has climbed 11.5% this year with a single abridged trading day to go. That's slightly better than the market's historical average, but some investors have been doing better than others.
Still, there are several stocks that have been killing it this year, and reading into the things that went right for them in 2012 may help you identify the traits in the stocks that will more than double in 2013.
A few days ago, I went over five stocks that more than doubled. Now let's review five more of this year's biggest winners.
Ellie Mae (NYSE: ELLI ) : Up 384%
There have been plenty of winners in the rebounding housing market, but it's hard to top the nearly five-bagger that Ellie Mae has become. Ellie Mae provides on-demand automation tools for the mortgage industry. It estimates that roughly 20% of the country's mortgages are flowing through its Encompass platform and its Ellie Mae Network. As a one-stop shop for mortgage processing, Ellie Mae is gaining share in a growing market. It doesn't get any better than that.
Ellie Mae has blasted through Wall Street's profit targets over the past year. The Web-centric housing play has smashed analyst estimates by 43% or better every single quarter over the past year. Exceed expectations, and good things happen.
Galena Biopharma (NASDAQ: GALE ) : Up 219%
Biotechs are feast or famine, and Galena was a smorgasbord of good news during this year's freshman quarter. Encouraging news on its promising lead candidate, cancer drug NeuVax, saw the stock that kicked off the year as a penny stock trade as high as $3.54 in March. The pop was so pronounced during the first three months of 2012 that the stock has shed more than half of its value since peaking in March yet has still more than tripled in 2012. Even better, NeuVax continues to clear clinical trial hurdles for its use in treating various cancers.
Nam Tai Electronics (NYSE: NTE ) : Up 151%
A Chinese provider of electronics manufacturing and design services, Nam Tai is a name companies can count on to deliver electronics quickly and at compelling price points.
China has been one of the poorest performing equity markets of 2012, but Nam Tai has bucked the trend. Its chunky dividend helps. Nam Tai's quarterly payouts of $0.15 a share give the stock an impressive yield of 4.6%. The healthy distributions validate the company at a time when many naysayers love to knock the accounting of overseas companies. Nam Tai's paying out real money, so surely it's making real money.
Nam Tai's latest quarter was a beauty. Revenue nearly tripled as it benefited from the production boost of liquid crystal display modules that can be found in smartphones and tablets.
Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S ) : Up 139%
Speaking of the success of mobile devices, Sprint has seen its stock more than double this year on booming smartphone subscriptions.
Sprint is the country's third largest wireless carrier, but it has been able to successfully set itself apart as the only one among the big three to offer new customers unlimited data plans. Verizon Wireless and Ma Bell moved to tiered pricing plans last year and are now trying to get customers to sign up for more lucrative shared data plans.
Sprint isn't profitable, and it isn't likely to turn that corner on an annual basis until 2014 at the earliest. However, the market always likes an underdog -- and consumers had better hope that Sprint sticks around to keep its two larger rivals honest.
Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) : Up 104%
Investor sentiment for the "too big to fail" banks remains largely negative, but that hasn't stopped Bank of America from more than doubling this year. Perhaps even more impressive is that Bank of America is the only Dow 30 component to have doubled in 2012. The second hottest Dow stock is up just 44% year-to-date.
Bank of America still has a long way to go, though. The financial-services behemoth is still paying the token $0.01-per-share quarterly dividend, but that will change if the company's fundamentals improve to the point where it's able to shell out a more generous payout.
With an improving housing market lifting the exposure of underwater mortgages and consumer sentiment on the upswing, Bank of America is taking steps in the right direction. Let's just hope that its next step isn't over the fiscal cliff.
Abner Doubelday lives
Few figured that processing mortgage applications or selling unlimited wireless data plans would be the ticket to market-thumping returns in 2012. The year ahead will also offer some intriguing if not unlikely victors.
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