WellPoint (WLP) is also a popular pick for 2012 with 18 of the 24 analysts covering the stock at either strong buy (9) or buy (9), and the median 12-month price target sitting at $87 vs. Tuesday's close at $67.93.
Caroll of Stifel Nicolaus also likes WellPoint, which he sees as a pure play on the insurance space. He's expecting the company to generate earnings of close to $8 per share next year. The current average analysts' estimate is at $7.75, giving the stock a relatively cheap forward price-to-earnings multiple of less than 9X at present levels.
Though Carroll recommends WellPoint, he noted that investors should be aware the company is more exposed to health care reform than some of its peers. His price target for the shares is $90.The stock has gained 19% in 2011, and the Indianapolis-based health care benefits provider is tentatively expected to report its fiscal fourth-quarter results on Jan. 25 with Wall Street expecting earnings of $1.11 a share in the December quarter on revenue of $15.38 billion. TheStreet Ratings gives WellPoint a B grade with a buy rating and a $64.50 price target. >>To see these stocks in action, visit the 3 Health Care Buys for 2012 portfolio on Stockpickr.
-- Written by Alexandra Zendrian in New York.
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