The market's been volatile this year, but the end result has been encouraging. The S&P 500 is trading 12% higher in 2012, making this a better-than-average year -- statistically speaking.
However, there have been plenty of stocks that have just gotten hammered this year. Many of them -- perhaps most of them -- won't bounce back. They tanked for good reasons, and the problems aren't easily reversible.
What about the stocks that will bounce back?
Now, some of the five names that I'll be throwing your way are going to be controversial. Their year-to-date returns have been woefully negative, and as an investor you're going to have an unfavorable bias when it comes to this basket of lovable losers.
I'll spell out the turnaround thesis for every stock, and naturally I'll be fully accountable by the end of next year when it's time to look back at this list.
Let's dive right in.
Groupon (GRPN -2.16%): Off 81% in 2012.
When a stock rallies on the chatter that its CEO will be let go, and then tanks when he is retained, you know you're unloved.
The daily-deals leader is a mess, and it knows it. Its original model is in shambles, as non-direct revenue is falling. However, the reinvention of Groupon is being ignored by Wall Street. Groupon has taken its 250,000-deep list of merchants and started offering everything from enterprise software solutions to cheap credit card processing. Its business selling physical goods at closeout prices is booming. Groupon isn't the same company that it was when it went public at $20 late last year, but it's worth more than the market thinks today.
Zynga (ZNGA): Off 75% in 2012.
Bookings are slipping at the company behind FarmVille 2 and Words With Friends, but let me see if I have the right tiles to spell out "turnaround" over a pair of double-word-score spaces.
Zynga shares are moving higher today after the company filed an application to initiate the process of acquiring a Nevada gaming license. It's been successful with Zynga Poker for virtual money, and now it wants to make a play in real-money gambling.
Cash-rich since last year's IPO, Zynga's trading close to its net cash value. If Zynga is able to return to profitability next year as analysts expect, it's hard to see the company falling too much lower.
Active Network (ACTV): Off 66% in 2012.
When it comes to online registrations for triathlons, marathons, and other endurance events, Active.com is the undisputed winner. The stock has been a loser, hammered on weak growth and a lack of profitability.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Nat Schindler upgraded his rating on the stock last week, reiterating a $9 price target that is nearly a double from where the backward-running sprinter finds itself now. Sure, it was his firm that took Active public at $15 last year, but the valuation argument is sound. Active is still expected to grow at a double-digit clip this year, though profitability on an annual basis won't come until 2014 at the earliest. As a buyout play trading for less than next year's revenue or a potential spike as more folks embrace 5k and longer runs for fitness, Active Network is better than its stock chart suggests.
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ 1.87%): Off 46% in 2012.
You don't need to remind me that the PC is dying. HP's flagship businesses of computers and printers just aren't as popular as they used to be. There was also last month's humiliating Autonomy accounting charge.
However, HP has been preparing for this day by gobbling up enterprise-centric companies in recent years. Even in this lull, is HP really worth just four times this year's earnings? That's too cheap for a company that's been thinking outside of the box for longer than you probably think.
Baidu (BIDU -3.06%): Off 24% in 2012.
China's leading search engine hasn't been battered as badly as the other names on this list, but it also remains intact as a great growth stock.
A surprising start for a recent entrant in search has spooked investors, but Baidu's still growing at a healthy clip. Analysts see revenue and earnings growth decelerating to 36% and 27%, respectively, next year, but Baidu's stock is also trading for less than 15 times forward earnings.
The bargain won't last.
Then again, none of these bargains will last much longer.