With 2012 just beginning, now's a smart time to gauge how the stocks you're interested in are likely to do this year and beyond. By knowing what stock analysts and fellow investors expect from a stock, you'll be smarter about whether you should buy it for your portfolio -- or sell it if you already own it.

Today, let's take a look at Manitowoc (NYSE: MTW). As I discussed last month, Manitowoc's unique combination of construction and food businesses pulled it in different directions during 2011, hurting the stock's performance. But will 2012 give the company a much-needed comeback opportunity? Below, I'll take a closer look at what people expect from Manitowoc and its rivals.

Forecasts on Manitowoc

Median Target Stock Price $13
Fiscal 2011 EPS Estimate $0.37
Fiscal 2012 EPS Estimate $0.94
Expected Annual Earnings Growth, Next 5 Years 57%
Forward P/E 10.4
CAPS Rating (out of 5) ****

Sources: Yahoo! Finance, Motley Fool CAPS.

What will 2012 look like for Manitowoc?
Analysts and investors alike have high hopes for Manitowoc in 2012. The target price for the stock represents about a gain of more than 40% from current levels, and analysts are looking for a huge boom in earnings for the company this year as well as healthy long-term growth.

To meet those expectations, Manitowoc will need to get some help. In particular, emerging markets have become increasingly important in the construction business. Despite concerns about the sustainability of China's fast growth, Manitowoc and its peers have seen healthy growth in emerging regions. Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT) saw a 41% jump in construction equipment sales in its most recent quarter, with emerging markets playing a key role. Terex (NYSE: TEX) cited crane demand in India and China as the contributing factors to a 47% jump in sales for the segment.

At the same time, food service will also play an important role. In 2010, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) recognized Manitowoc's Frymaster line as helping it reduce its carbon footprint. With McDonald's and Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM) as major customers, the emerging-market growth that those fast-food operators have experienced further contributes to Manitowoc's own success.

Overall, Manitowoc's 2012 looks dependent on the health of emerging markets. If the U.S. economy takes off, though, shareholders could get an unexpected bonus. That makes the shares look pretty attractive after their 2011 slump.

Manitowoc isn't the only company looking to capitalize on emerging markets. Read about the Motley Fool's pick for the top stock for 2012 and its connection to the developing world. The report is free, but it won't be there forever, so check it out today.

Click here to add Manitowoc to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Yum! Brands. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of McDonald's and Yum! Brands. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.