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5 Rocket Stocks to Buy in December

Stocks in this article: JCPMSFTAROEBAYKO

BALTIMORE ( Stockpickr) -- As markets open for their first December session of 2013 this morning, most people are a little distracted. To the chagrin of bosses everywhere, online deals for Cyber Monday are drawing most of the bandwidth at offices around the country today.

>>5 Stocks Under $10 Set to Soar

But Mr. Market deserves every bit of the attention that the $477 46-inch LED HDTV is getting at Amazon.com ( AMZN) today. Year-to-date, the big index has rallied 26.6% heading into the final month of the year. That's enough for most investors to pay for their fair share of Cyber Monday deals.

And with December ringing in as a historically bullish month to own stocks, the market looks well positioned to end the year on a high note. To take full advantage, we're looking at a new set of Rocket Stocks worth buying in December.

For the uninitiated, "Rocket Stocks" are our list of companies with short-term gain catalysts and longer-term growth potential. To find them, I run a weekly quantitative screen that seeks out stocks with a combination of analyst upgrades and positive earnings surprises to identify rising analyst expectations, a bullish signal for stocks in any market. After all, where analysts' expectations are increasing, institutional cash often follows. In the last 225 weeks, our weekly list of five plays has outperformed the S&P 500 by 91.52%.

>>5 Breakout Trades for the Final Stretch of 2013

Without further ado, here's a look at this week's Rocket Stocks.

J.C. Penney

It's a little hard to believe that J.C. Penney ( JCP) is making our list today. After all, the department store chain has been Wall Street's whipping boy in 2013, nearly halving in value since the calendar flipped over to January. But with analyst sentiment on the upswing in the last month, it makes sense to give JCP a second look.

>>5 Short-Squeeze Stocks Ready to Pop

J.C. Penney is a 111-year-old department store retailer that operates just over 1,100 stores in 49 states and Puerto Rico. The firm's stores are shopping mall staples, but that huge geographic footprint has come to bite JCP operationally. Lots of high-performance stores are one thing, but lots of underperforming locations have burned through cash and put the firm's financial health in question. So today, Penney is in the middle of a turnaround attempt. JCP's best chance for success is a shift in its merchandise mix; if the firm can start stocking products that actually spur consumers to come through the doors, then the firm stands a much better shot at longer-term success.

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