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Grading the Graders: Analyst Stock Picks for 2012

5. Harris (HRS)

Company profile: Harris is a communications and information technology company that serves government and commercial markets worldwide.

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 23% this year to $44.35, and have a three-year, average annual return of 21%. S&P's year-end price target is $48.

S&P analysts say: "We see Harris benefiting as local and federal government agencies focus on improving the technological capabilities of their communications systems, and we see recent acquisitions supporting modest growth" this year and next.

4. Express Scripts (ESRX)

Company profile: Express Scripts is the biggest pharmacy-benefit manager in the U.S.

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 27% this year to $57.63, and have a three-year, average annual return of 24%. S&P's year-end price target is $67.

After its April 2 merger with Medco Health Solutions, S&P analysts say "Medco offers significant opportunities to enhance (this company's) market position, yields more than $1 billion in operating synergies, and enables ESRX to generate over $4 billion in cash flow."

3. Advance Auto Parts (AAP)

Company profile: Advanced Auto is a retailer of automotive aftermarket parts, accessories, batteries and maintenance items. It owns over 3,000 retail parts stores.

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 29% this year, to $90.23, and have a three-year, average annual return of 28%. S&P's year-end price target is $100.

S&P analysts say: "The shares are attractive despite a recent run-up in price, now trading at around 14 times our 2012 earnings per share estimate, a modest discount to its peers and the S&P MidCap 400 (index)."

2. Cummins (CMI)

Company profile: Cummins makes and services diesel and natural gas engines, and engine-related component products worldwide.

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 30% this year to $115.19, and have a three-year, average annual return of 57%. S&P's year-end price target is $152.

S&P analysts say: "Cummins will continue to use technology and its strong balance sheet to increase market share" especially in emerging markets, which make up a growing part of its total sales.

1. EMC (EMC)

Company profile: EMC is a leading provider of hardware, software and services for enterprise network storage, and now, through its VMware unit, software and services. The company is well-positioned to become a major player in cloud computing and virtualization software.

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 34% this year to $29.12, and have a three-year, average annual return of 31%. S&P's year-end price target is $36.

S&P analysts say they rate EMC highly because "demand for data storage will remain strong, driven by higher usage of video and electronic record keeping. We see growing interest in cloud computing and virtualization software, which should benefit EMC."

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.
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