The Market’s Top 10 Stocks for 2012

In Waiting for Godot -- a strange, but amusing play by Samuel Beckett -- two characters spend all of their time waiting around in vain for someone named Godot to arrive. Similarly, it seemed like a lot of investors spent 2012 waiting around in vain for a market correction that never quite materialized.

Despite all of the uncertainty and anxiety surrounding Europe, China, chronic unemployment, and various other maladies, the S&P 500 provided a total return of 16% for the year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average delivered a total return of 10.24%. Those investors who spent 2012 waiting for the other shoe to drop witnessed instead one of the best years of the last decade.

Predicting where the market will end up in any given year is, of course, a pretty futile exercise. As Warren Buffett once remarked, "the only value of stock forecasters is to make fortune tellers look good."

Despite Buffett's wise advice, it is still helpful to take a closer look at those companies and sectors that performed well over the past year in order to discover ongoing trends that may continue to reward investors in 2013 and beyond. With that in mind, we've listed the top 10 performing stocks of 2012 in the embedded slidedeck below.

One of the biggest trends of 2012 was the fledgling recovery in the housing market. Four of the top 10 stocks -- Lumber Liquidators (NYSE: LL  ) , PulteGroup (NYSE: PHM  ) , USG Corp. (NYSE: USG  ) , and Radian Group (NYSE: RDN  ) -- saw their shares rise as a result of the rebound in the housing sector.

Another big trend in 2012 was the remarkable increase in demand for 3-D printing solutions. 2012 was the year, according to Motley Fool analyst Anders Bylund, when 3-D printing systems "moved from science-fiction fantasies to mainstream reality." Two 3-D printing companies -- 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD  ) and Stratasys (NASDAQ: SSYS  ) -- benefited tremendously as a result. 3D Systems was almost a four-bagger for investors in 2012, while Stratasys was just shy of a triple.

To see all of the top 10 performing stocks of 2012, just click the arrows within the embedded slideshow below. Alternatively, you can view all of the companies by clicking the link below the slideshow.

The Market's Top Ten Stocks for 2012 from The Motley Fool.

Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner's boundless enthusiasm for 3-D printing resulted in impressive gains for members of his investing services over the past year. He selected 3D Systems for his Stock Advisor service, and recommended Stratasys for his Rule Breakers service. He still believes these two companies will perform well going forward.

In both services, David has managed to trounce the market by always being on the lookout for revolutionary stocks and recommending them before Wall Street catches on to their disruptive potential. If you're interested in how David picks his winners, click here to get instant access to a personal tour behind David's Supernova service.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the 2012 returns for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The figures have been corrected.


Read/Post Comments (16) | Recommend This Article (81)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2013, at 11:49 AM, AdrianPietro wrote:

    Interesting! And for 2013?

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2013, at 1:29 PM, 777SAMSON wrote:

    This idea of a 3-D printer is amazing the tecknolige is so neat

    tecknolige is misspelled but you know what I mean.

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2013, at 1:32 PM, ksu50 wrote:

    Are these lists for 2012? How about 2013?

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2013, at 1:40 PM, TMFBane wrote:

    Yes, this particular list is a look back at the top performing stocks in 2012.

    I like the idea of making a list of ten promising stocks for 2013. We'll definitely consider it.

    In the meantime, here's a link to our "Real-Money" Stock Picks page:

    http://www.fool.com/specials/realmoneyports/real-money-portf...

    You'll find a lot of compelling ideas there!

    Best,

    John

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2013, at 3:50 PM, Bill2395 wrote:

    NOW WHAT ABOUT 2013 FOR TOP STOCKS?

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2013, at 3:51 PM, jm7700229 wrote:

    Doesn't speak very well of the CAPS ratings, does it?

  • Report this Comment On January 11, 2013, at 5:25 PM, PoorerThanU wrote:

    Funny enough, I too am waiting for the market "correction." I do not think it will be a correction in the traditional sense of the word...it will 2008 all over again. It will come. Patience, grasshopper.

    While I "waited" this year, I made 19% using Fool recommendations and another service. Investing is dead for the next five years at least. Just my opinion....worth every cent you paid for it!

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2013, at 10:52 AM, wildcatjimi wrote:

    This is not news to those who follow the Fools recommended watch groups. We have another self congratulatory pat on the back of past performance. The future is not a reflection of the past. I agree with the direction stated by PoorerThanU...Look out below.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2013, at 11:33 AM, 48ozhalfgallons wrote:

    It's coming.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2013, at 1:00 PM, keahou wrote:
  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2013, at 4:37 PM, unterdenlinden wrote:

    So since you think "IT" is coming, are you completely out of the market-no stocks?

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2013, at 7:42 PM, malcolmcochran wrote:

    I did 'sort of OK' with my holdings, but maybe not much more than average.

    I mean, why did those 3D printing outfits shoot up? I had Dassault's version, and it went up 10% (I still hold it). And then I did careful DD of a small cap, FFEX. They do cold-transport. The analysts said Sell but it seemed basically very sound on every metric, so I bought - better than Lumber Liquidators, that's for sure; but it sank like a stone. My choice of STM is up ~50%.

    Of course I'm ahead, who isn't. But I wonder what to buy as I re-balance?

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2013, at 1:50 PM, TelsaRowe wrote:

    MNKD will outperform the S&P. This dude is betting

    $200K on them-

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ewq1pjXzya8

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2013, at 4:39 PM, DBrown7 wrote:

    I believe the Dow Jones Industrial Average returned approximately 7.5% in 2012, not 15% as stated in the article. The 7,5% would not include dividends.

  • Report this Comment On January 14, 2013, at 11:17 AM, TMFBane wrote:

    @DBrown7,

    Yes, you are correct. The Dow Jones Industrial Average returned 7.26% for 2012. With dividends reinvested, the return was 10.24%. We've made the correction in the piece.

    Here is a link to the Dow Jones in review:

    http://us.spindices.com/documents/index-news-and-announcemen...

    Best,

    John Reeves

  • Report this Comment On January 17, 2013, at 8:13 AM, mikecart1 wrote:

    The average star rating for each of these stocks is less than 3 stars.

    Moral of story: look at the least star'd stocks on Motley Fool if you want to make Mad Money???

    :)

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