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5 Biggest, Best Companies Across World

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks rose yesterday, snapping six days of losses, on signs the service sector is growing.

The Institute for Supply Management's gauge of service industries, which collectively account for the largest part of the U.S. economy, lifted stocks, leading to the highest close since May.

Still, unemployment remains widespread and is estimated by economists to average more than 9% through next year. The upcoming earnings-release season -- kicked off by Alcoa (AA) on Thursday -- is giving some investors pause as some are awaiting clearer signs the economy won't fall into a recession.

Corporate earnings are expected by analysts to accelerate in the current quarter from the three months through September. Analysts forecast that S&P 500 earnings increased 23% in the third quarter and will quicken to 31% in the fourth quarter.

Below are five stocks that are among the most highly rated in their respective industries and countries. They are based in the U.S., Brazil, Germany, China and India. If executives at those companies -- all of them bellwethers -- provide bullish outlooks, their share prices probably will follow.

1. Apple (AAPL): Apple, the maker of computer and electronic devices, is seeing sales jump due to the popularity of its iPad tablet and iPhone.

Analysts estimates call for revenue growth of 74% this year, to $63.4 billion, and 117% in 2011, to $79.2 billion. They expect earnings per share this year of $14.45, a 130% rise over 2009, and $17.62 in 2011, a 22% increase.

Apple's net operating margin of 20.7% is the highest among the 34 companies in the computer hardware maker sector.

Shares are up 34% so far this year, and hit a 52-week high last week, versus its peer group's 1.7%.

Conservatively managed, Apple has no long-term debt and held $24.3 billion in cash at the end of the second quarter, or $26.59 per share.

Apple's price-to-earnings ratio is 21.6, versus 34.2 for its peer group, suggesting the shares are selling at a discount.

Of analysts covering Apple, 47, or 94%, advise purchasing its shares and three advise holding them. None rate the stock "sell." A median price target of $342.81 suggests a return of 19% in the next 12 months. JPMorgan offers a price target of $400, implying 38% of upside.

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