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5 Biggest Dow 'Dogs' May Be Mutts in 2012 Too

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Some of last year's Dogs of the Dow, the laggard stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average with the biggest dividend yields, aren't getting any prettier this year. And maybe they'll turn into mutts for 2012.

The Dogs of the Dow theory posits that underperforming companies in one year become outperformers in the next. Record volatility in the stock market has upended that investment strategy, with three of the worst-performing companies this year -- Bank of America (BAC), Alcoa (AA) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) -- having been included in the bottom five in 2010. Next year may not be any better for those companies, as each faces deep-seated problems they can't solve quickly.

Despite the volatility, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has declined only 1.8% so far in 2011 after increasing 11% last year. The 30-member Dow has outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index and the tech-heavy Nasdaq, which are down 6% and 7%, respectively.

With political upheaval in Europe and the U.S., a debt overhang that threatens to topple Europe, and slowing economic growth at home and abroad, at least the first half of 2012 will be clouded by uncertainty. So the laggards may not become leaders.

The other two stocks in the bottom five, JPMorgan (JPM) and General Electric (GE), stand out as those that could rebound. JPMorgan is burying rivals including Bank of America and Citigroup (C), while General Electric has cut so much waste that any revenue increase quickly will filter into profits.

That said, JPMorgan could have a tougher time rallying in 2012 given the European debt crisis and its potential implications, but stands to benefit from any pickup in the banking industry because of its position as a leading financial institution. In addition to its high yield, General Electric is trading at a discount to peers, making it a more attractive investment.

Here are the five worst-performing Dow stocks of 2011. Below they are ordered by return, from bad to worst.

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