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3 Top Tech Stocks for 2012

Juniper Networks

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Market cap: $12.4 billion.

It was a tough 2011 for networker Juniper. The Cisco (CSCO - Get Report) rival saw its shares slump more than 36% as the one-time Wall Street darling wrestled with the effects of a tough economy.

Juniper's pain, though, could be investor's gain, according to Brian Marshall, IT hardware and data networking analyst at ISI Group.

"Basically, expectations are low, Juniper was beaten to a pulp this year," he explained, adding that the firm is gearing up for a big 12 months. "Out of the 11 IT hardware and data networking companies we cover, Juniper offers investors one of the most robust product cycles for 2012."

Specifically, the analyst cites Juniper's new T4000 core router as a growth catalyst, as well as its QFabric technology, touted as a revolution in data center networking. Other drivers include the MobileNext telecom products that were launched earlier this year and the eagerly-anticipated PTX Supercore switch, which Juniper said can reduce the amount of hardware needed to run service provider networks.

The first T4000 shipments will reach Juniper customers later this quarter, while the PTX makes its debut during the first quarter of 2012. Juniper unveiled its QFabric earlier this year and began shipping the technology in September. Additional features for MobileNext are expected next year.

Speaking at a recent investor event, Juniper Chief Financial Officer Robyn Denholm explained that the company has been in a "heavy R&D cycle" for the last three years, but said that the fruits of its labors are now coming to market.

Juniper now has the strongest portfolio of products in its history, according to the firm, which recently posted in-line third quarter results.

Experts have certainly been warming to Juniper recently, with the company receiving an upgrade from RBC Capital Markets, and getting positive attention from TheStreet's Action Alerts Plus, which sees the stock as a comeback story.

"Juniper is managing through current execution and product transition issues, but has major new product ramps occurring in 2012," added Alkesh Shah, an analyst at Evercore Partners, in an email to TheStreet. "That should enable it to provide upside surprises to consensus and enable the stock to work."

>>To see these stocks in action, visit the 3 Top Tech Stocks for 2012 portfolio on Stockpickr.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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