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10 U.S. stocks that may outperform through 2011

With global stock markets teetering on the brink of a bear market, investors have given up hope of making money this year.

The MSCI All-Country World Index, which measures the performance of emerging and developed equity markets, has fallen 20 per cent from its high this year. G7 countries Italy, Germany and France have seen their stock markets drop more than 25 per cent this year, dragged down by Greece's virtual bankruptcy. And there's no hiding as fast-growth countries such as India and Brazil have declined almost as much.

In the U.S., stocks have slumped a less-severe 10 per cent, and there's hope for investors looking to finish 2011 in the black for a third straight year. In fact, several stocks in the benchmark S&P 500 Index, such as gadget maker Apple and Internet search company Google, tend to outperform between the end of summer and the finish of the year, historical data show.

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Nothing is a sure thing, especially with so much uncertainty. Later this month, the Federal Reserve meets to discuss interest-rate policy as the economy has ground to a halt, which could lead to another asset-purchase program. There is mounting concern that a Greek debt default will occur – the Greek stock market has plunged 40 per cent this year while two-year note yields have spiked to 70 per cent.

On the other hand, stock prices typically rise in December heading into the holidays in anticipation that new funds flowing into the market in January will lead to price appreciation (the so-called Santa Claus Rally). The third-quarter earnings reporting season begins in earnest next month, with corporate profits still expected to be strong, even as the unemployment has been stuck at or above 9 per cent for two years.

As the Dow Jones industrial average has suffered triple-digit fluctuations in 21 of the past 28 trading sessions, investors may be happy to hear that 427 constituents of the S&P 500 have historically risen from now until the end of the year, based on data from the past 10 years.

The following 10 stocks are the best performers on the S&P 500 from Sept. 12 until the end of the year over the past decade. As some companies have been publicly traded for less than a decade, such as Google, TheStreet is including those that have information for more than five years. That excludes some big gainers like Carefusion and First Solar , which have fewer than six years of data for the time period.

10. NetApp

Company Profile: NetApp is a supplier of enterprise-storage and data-management software, and hardware products and services. The stock is down 35 per cent this year.

Average Return Since 2001: 19.8 per cent

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Best Late-Year Performance: +48.1 per cent in 2004

Worst Late-Year Performance: -42.6 per cent in 2008

Analysts Ratings: Twenty-four analysts, or 60 per cent of those following NetApp, rate the stock a "buy," including those at firms like Merriman Capital and Piper Jaffray. The other 16 saying investors should hold onto shares. The average price target of $49.72, according to data collected by Bloomberg, suggests upside potential of 39 per cent from current levels.

9. Apple

Company Profile: Apple is best known for its Mac line of computers, the iPod, iPhone and iPad devices, and iOS operating system. Shares of Apple are up 17 per cent in 2011.

Average Return Since 2001: 20.3 per cent

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Best Late-Year Performance: +79.4 per cent in 2004

Worst Late-Year Performance: -42.7 per cent in 2008

Analysts Ratings: Apple is among the most widely followed companies on Wall Street, garnering 55 total analyst recommendations. Fifty of those firms, including Jefferies and Sanford C. Bernstein, say investors should buy shares of Apple. The only over five researchers following the stock say investors should hold onto shares. The average price target of $499.53 is about 33 per cent above where the stock currently trades.

8. Nasdaq OMX Group

Company Profile: Nasdaq OMX Group is a global exchange group that delivers trading, exchange technology, securities listing, and public company services across six continents. The company owns and operates the Nasdaq stock market. Shares of Nasdaq OMX Group are down 6 per cent this year.

Average Return Since 2002: 20.5 per cent

Best Late-Year Performance: +68 per cent in 2004

Worst Late-Year Performance: -20.9 per cent in 2008

Analysts Ratings: Thirteen research shops, including Deutsche Bank and Sandler O'Neill, have "buy" ratings on Nasdaq OMX Group. The other eight researchers following the company say investors should hold shares. The average price target of $28.37 represents upside potential of 27 per cent.

7. Cliffs Natural Resources

Company Profile: Cliffs Natural Resources is a producer of iron-ore pellets in North America, a major supplier of direct-shipping lump and fines iron ore out of Australia, and a significant producer of metallurgical coal. Shares are down about 2 per cent this year.

Average Return Since 2001: 21.1 per cent

Best Late-Year Performance: +88.9 per cent in 2003

Worst Late-Year Performance: -68.5 per cent in 2008

Analysts Ratings: Cliffs Natural gets high marks from analysts, garnering 15 "buy" ratings from firms like FBR Capital Markets and Deutsche Bank. The other three analysts following the company rate the stock a "hold." The average price target of $119.55 represents potential upside of nearly 60 per cent from current levels.

6. F5 Networks

Company Profile: F5 Networks develops technology that optimizes the delivery of network-based applications and the security, performance and availability of servers, data storage devices and other network resources. Shares have been crushed this year, falling 42 per cent through last Friday's close.

Average Return Since 2001: 23.4 per cent

Best Late-Year Performance: +76.2 per cent in 2004

Worst Late-Year Performance: -29 per cent in both 2007 and 2008

Analysts Ratings: Although the stock has fallen hard this year, analysts are still optimistic when it comes to F5 Networks. Twenty research firms, including Stifel Nicolaus and Deutsche Bank, have "buy" ratings on the stock. The other 14 researchers following F5 Networks rate the stock a "hold." The average price target of $112.36 calls for the stock to rebound 50 per cent from current levels.

5. Western Digital

Company Profile: Western Digital makes computer hard drives. Shares of Western Digital are down 16 per cent this year.

Average Return Since 2001: 25.5 per cent

Best Late-Year Performance: +41.4 per cent in 2002

Worst Late-Year Performance: -52.4 per cent in 2008

Analysts Ratings: Fifteen analysts following Western Digital say investors should buy shares. Those firms include Brean Murray and Needham & Co. Another seven analysts say investors should hold onto shares, while one lone analyst has a "sell" rating on Western Digital. The average analyst price target of $43.94 suggests upside potential of nearly 55 per cent.

4. Nvidia

Company Profile: Nvidia is a developer of visual-computing technologies and the graphics processing unit, or the GPU. The stock is down about 10 per cent this year.

Average Return Since 2001: 26.2 per cent

Best Late-Year Performance: +76.6 per cent in 2001

Worst Late-Year Performance: -20.8 per cent in 2008

Analysts Ratings: Although Nvidia shares tend to perform well after Sept. 12, not all analysts are clamoring to recommend the stock as a "buy." Twenty-three research firms following Nvidia say investors should hold onto shares, while only 12 say investors should be buying. Wells Fargo, JPMorgan and Jefferies are among the firms recommending that investors sit tight. Another two research shops have "sell" ratings on the stock. The average price target of $18.07 implies potential upside of 29 per cent.

3. Google

Company Profile: Google is the iconic Internet search and advertising tech giant. The company also builds Web applications and software, including the Chrome Web browser and the Android mobile operating system for handsets and tablet computers. Google shares are down 11 per cent this year.

Average Return Since 2004: 27.6 per cent

Best Late-Year Performance: +83 per cent in 2004

Worst Late-Year Performance: -29.7 per cent in 2008

Analysts Ratings: Google is massively popular with analysts, garnering 38 "buy" ratings from firms like Jefferies, Piper Jaffray and Stifel Nicolaus. The only other four analysts covering the stock say investors should hold on to shares. Although Google shares have underperformed the broader market, analysts on average expect the stock to climb 39 per cent from current levels.

2. Red Hat

Company Profile: Red Hat provides open-source software services, such as Red Hat Linux, to companies. Red Hat shares have slid 18 per cent this year.

Average Return Since 2001: 35.9 per cent

Best Late-Year Performance: +127.6 per cent in 2001

Worst Late-Year Performance: -28.2 per cent in 2008

Analysts Ratings: Eighteen researchers, or 72 per cent of those covering the stock, rate Red Hat a "buy," including analysts at Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Stifel Nicolaus. Another five analysts have a "hold" rating on the stock, while two researchers have a "sell" rating on shares. The average price target of $48.06 is about 28 per cent above current levels.

1. Akamai Technologies

Company Profile: Akamai Technologies provides services for accelerating and improving the delivery of content and applications over the Internet from live and on-demand streaming videos to conventional content on Web pages. Shares of Akamai have been crushed this year, tumbling 55 per cent through Friday's close.

Average Return Since 2001: 40.3 per cent

Best Late-Year Performance: +131.4 per cent in 2003

Worst Late-Year Performance: -16.4 per cent in 2008

Analysts Ratings: Although Akamai has historically performed the best of all S&P 500 constituents from Sept. 12 to the end of the year over the past decade, analysts aren't as bullish as one might think. Only nine research firms, including D.A. Davidson and Janney Montgomery Scott, say investors should buy the stock. A majority of 14 analysts have a "hold" rating on Akamai, while one lone analyst has a "sell" rating on the stock. The average price target of $28.14 is 36 per cent above current levels, which means analysts expect a small rebound after this year's dramatic drop.

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