So far, 2012 has been very good to investors. Obviously, we're only about 11 days into the new year, so there's no use in drawing any major conclusions.
Investors had to weather a summer that was more volatile than any since 1932, just to see their returns remain flat. Without a doubt, 2012's start is providing some psychological relief at least.
And if you want to get in on some of the great growth and value plays our analysts are turning up, I suggest you take a look at the five stocks our Rising Stars have purchased since the ball dropped on the first.
Add any of these stocks to your watchlist to stay up-to-date on all the latest news, and read to the end to get access to a special free report about our top stock for 2012.
Fool Anand Chokkavelu initially laid down his thesis for purchasing shares of this glass-making specialist in October. He recently followed that up by making it official and putting the Fool's money behind the stock.
Anand likes both the valuation -- with a P/E under 10 -- and the prospects moving forward for the company. With a history of cutting-edge innovation, and inroads into both the Gorilla Glass (the stuff that covers smartphone screens) and LCD market, he's excited to grab shares at such a low price.
- Add Corning to My Watchlist.
Anand didn't stop at Corning, though. He's also laid down a thesis for buying shares of Ford. While the past year hasn't necessarily been good to Ford shareholders, he thinks there's plenty to be excited about when it comes to their future.
Not only is its cheap P/E offer an enticing entry point, but the company has shown the ability to right its ship during one of the most tumultuous periods in market history, and avoid taking government bailouts. Though CEO rock-star Alan Mulally has announced his plans to retire in a few years, Anand believes he'll set the car maker up to succeed for years to come.
- Add Ford to My Watchlist.
And as if he hadn't spent enough of the Fool's money already, Anand had a third company he was confident enough to put money behind: office-supplier Staples. Underappreciated as an online retailer, Staples is actually the No. 2 e-tailer in America, Anand discovered, behind only Amazon.com
That alone wasn't enough to get him to buy, though. The company has also been crushing competitors like Office Max and Office Depot in a down market, has a strong base of business customers, and -- like his other two choices -- is trading for far less than he thinks its stock is worth.
- Add Staples to My Watchlist.
The leader of our Rising Star pack is Alyce Lomax, and her portfolio of socially responsible companies. Already beating the S&P 500 by a whopping 10 percentage points as of Jan. 5, Alyce believes that adding shares of Amazon will only extend her lead over the market.
Though she initially recommended against buying shares of the company in November, she's changed her mind now. The reason: a much better price point. And while there is lots to love about the company from a business standpoint, Alyce also appreciates the values of the company. Its Kaizen program lets "employees collaborate to figure out ways to reduce waste and dream up more energy-efficient methods."
- Add Amazon.com to My Watchlist.
And to wrap things up, Rising Star Jim Mueller is purchasing shares of this fertilizer company for his Messed-Up Expectations portfolio. With CF's laser focus on producing fertilizer from nitrogen -- as opposed to potash or phosphates -- Jim sees reason to be excited.
Nitrogen far outpaces these other two by volume used in North America. But because of uncertainty in the market and fears of weak fertilizer demand in the first part of 2012, shares are being held down. Not to fear, says Jim, as those fears are overblown, and this company is poised to be a long-term winner in the industry.
- Add CF Industries to My Watchlist.
No list is complete without our Top Stock
Now that you know what each one of our analysts is thinking individually, I'd like to offer you access to a report that highlights their collective Top Stock for 2012. Inside, you'll find out about a solid company with access to the quickly growing markets in Central and South America. The report is yours today, absolutely free!