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Merrill Lynch's 10 Favorite Stocks for 2012

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5. Air Products & Chemical (APD - Get Report)

Company Profile: Air Products supplies a portfolio of atmospheric gases, process and specialty gases, performance materials, equipment and services to a wide range of industries from food and beverage, health and personal care to energy, transportation and semiconductors.

Sector Representation: Materials

Share Price: $84.03 (Dec. 5)

Potential Upside: 19% based on a price target of $100

Investment Thesis: Analyst Kevin McCarthy says that chemicals is the preferred industry within the materials sector, and that quality, growth, and attractive valuation led him to Air Products.

"We view Air Products as a leader in industrial gases, with exposure to high-growth markets, including Asia, refinery hydrogen, and electronics," he writes. "Take-or-pay onsite gas contracts, and 3-5 year merchant gas contracts provide a cushion against downturns. We expect earnings to benefit from ongoing recovery in the global industrial economy and rising global energy prices. Additional positives include a healthy backlog of new projects, such as hydrogen for crude oil refining and oxygen for coal gasification."

4. Apple (AAPL - Get Report)

Company Profile: Apple, the maker of consumer electronic devices like the iPhone, iPad and iMac, is one of the largest companies in the world.

Sector Representation: Information technology

Share Price: $395.01 (Dec. 5)

Potential Upside: 30.4% based on a price target of $515

Investment Thesis: Like most tech analysts, Scott Craig favors Apple because of its high quality, the secular growth opportunity, and attractive valuation.

"We remain positive on Apple's growth potential given its opportunity to gain market share in large addressable markets, especially in the PC and handset markets," Craig writes. "We find Apple's valuation compelling, particularly based on the upside potential from revenue and earnings growth in the Mac/PC and iPhone segments and from gross margins, which we think should more than outweigh the near-term slowdown in iPod units and consumer exposure."

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AAPL $118.30 0.00%
APD $136.89 0.00%
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