NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- Parking your money in an index fund didn't cut it in 2011.

Of the three major U.S. equity indices, the best performer so far in 2011 is the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

with a gain of 2.5% through Thursday's close. The

S&P 500

is down 3.3%on a price basis, while the

Nasdaq Composite

has fared the worst, losing 3.7%.

Santa Claus and his rally are going to have to show up soon or else 2011 is going to go down as a year that passive investors just want to forget. As always, picking individual stocks offers the most risk and the most reward in the equity universe. If you were smart enough to take positions in

Cabot Oil & Gas

(COG) - Get Report

,

El Paso

(EP)

, and

Intuitive Surgical

(ISRG) - Get Report

, the best performers in the S&P 500 through Thursday, sporting gains of 91%, 80% and 66% respectively; life's pretty good and you don't really care what the fuss in Europe is all about.

The poor person who went the same route with a different three stocks, say

First Solar

(FSLR) - Get Report

,

Alpha Natural Resources

(ANR)

, and

MEMC Electronic Materials

(WFR)

, which turned out to the worst performers in the S&P 500, losing 78%, 68%, and 67% respectively; well, it's a whole different story.

The tech analysts over at Canaccord Genuity are out their lists of top picks for various sectors, as well as names to avoid in 2012, and the firm is optimistic that the new year will be better than 2011.

"After a year in which global macro machinations drove stock correlations to record highs,the Canaccord Genuity technology team is hopeful that 2012 will be a year in which favorable returns are the reward for superior fundamental analysis," the firm said. "Our team remains positively inclined on the technology sector in general, with noted caution around PC growth trends and near-term supply constraints."

The positive trends that Canaccord is highlighting are the usual tech suspects: Mobile, especially increased smartphone adoption and the monetization of mobile advertising; Cloud-based services, including social applications and e-commerce; and New Media with an emphasis on the implications of the connected living room.

The firm broke down its top picks by sector. Within semiconductors, the favored names are

Analog Devices

(ADI) - Get Report

and

Integrated Device Technology

(IDTI) - Get Report

; under the communications technology banner,

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

,

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

, and

Sierra Wireless

(SWIR) - Get Report

get the nod; the leading lights of new media and location-based technology are

Trimble Navigation

(TRMB) - Get Report

,

Velti plc

(VELT)

,

KIT Digital

(KITD)

, and

Rovi

(ROVI)

;

Salesforce.com

(CRM) - Get Report

and

Nuance Communications

(NUAN) - Get Report

got props within enterprise software; while

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

and

Zillow

(Z) - Get Report

were deemed Internet royalty.

And how about those tech stocks to avoid? There are seven:

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

,

LM Ericsson

(ERIC) - Get Report

,

Research In Motion

(RIMM)

,

Powerwave Technologies

(PWAV)

,

Garmin

(GRMN) - Get Report

,

Netflix

(NFLX) - Get Report

, and

Intuit

(INTU) - Get Report

.

What follows is some commentary from Canaccord on select names from both lists, information on where Wall Street sentiment stands, and charts showing how the stocks have fared this year.

Analog Devices

Top pick; Canaccord rates at buy

Of the 26 analysts covering the stock, 8 are at strong buy, 8 are at buy and 10 are at hold; the current median 12-month price target is $38 vs. Thursday's close at $34.05

Down 9.6% year-to-date

Analyst quote:

"We continue to recommend Analog Devices given the potential for dividend increases, essentially no PC exposure, and a likely uptick in gross margin as industrial begins to recover in Q1. While risk remains, we view fiscal Q1 (ends Jan. 2012) as the likely bottom as end demand appears to have stabilized (inventory largely digested and under shipping demand.)"

Apple

Top pick; Canaccord rates at buy

Of the 55 analysts covering the stock, 25 are at strong buy, 25 are at buy, 3 are at hold, 1 is at underperform, and 1 is at sell; the current median 12-month price target is $505 vs. Thursday's close at $378.94

Up 17.5% year-to-date

Analyst quote:

"We believe Apple shares will outperform during 2012 due to multiple new products driving stronger revenue and earnings growth than our coverage universe. Our recent checks indicate continued strong sales of the iPhone 4S and discounted legacy iPhone 4 and 3GS models. The iPhone remains by far the top selling smartphone at AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, and our checks indicated ramping sales especially in emerging markets such as China and Latin America."

Qualcomm

Top pick; Canaccord rates at buy

Of the 44 analysts covering the stock, 16 are at strong buy, 20 are at buy, 7 are at hold, and 1 is at sell; the current median 12-month price target is $66.50 vs. Thursday's close at $52.55

Up 6.2% year-to-date

Analyst quote:

"With more than 3B 2G GSM subscribers on a migration path to 3G CDMA-based technologies over the next decade and our expectation for MSM market share gains with multiple OEMs, we believe Qualcomm should post stronger long-term earnings growth than our coverage universe. With Qualcomm's integrated Snapdragon solutions gaining market share with leading smartphone ecosystems and OEMs, we believe Qualcomm is well-positioned to grow faster than the handset market for the next several years."

Salesforce.com

Top pick; Canaccord rates at buy

Of the 43 analysts covering the stock, 11 are at strong buy, 21 are at buy, 7 are at hold, and 4 are at sell; the current median 12-month price target is $152 vs. Thursday's close at $106.71

Down 19.2% year-to-date

Analyst quote:

"Salesforce.com, which is hardly an unknown name, could be one of a very few large cap software companies that not only produces organic revenue growth greater than 25% but also has the very real chance of showing accelerating organic growth as 2012 progresses. In this world of severe stock price punishment when a company misses a consensus number - guided or not - we expect CRM to consistently beat consensus results rather than boosting its outlook to set "stretch" targets."

Google

Top pick; Canaccord rates at buy

Of the 38 analysts covering the stock, 15 are at strong buy, 19 are at buy and 4 are at hold; the current median 12-month price target is $730 vs. Thursday's close at $619.54

Up 4.3% year-to-date

Analyst quote:

"We believe Google still offers stable exposure to the most durable trends in tech: Internet usage, online advertising and commerce, smart phone penetration, mobile commerce, and social networking. We expect strong growth and profitability, and believe this will warrant a stable or higher multiple, especially if mobile monetization improves."

Netflix

Stock to Avoid

Of the 35 analysts covering the stock, 2 are at strong buy, 4 are at buy, 20 are at hold, 6 are at undeperform, and 3 are at sell; the current median 12-month price target is $80 vs. Thursday's close at $69.72

Down 60% year-to-date

Analyst quote:

"While the macro environment appears positive for NFLX, we believe that the company faces numerous challenges, including subscriber losses, rising content costs and an increased competitive landscape."

Intuit

Stock to Avoid

Of the 22 analysts covering the stock, 9 are at strong buy, 5 are at buy, 7 are at hold, and 1 is at undeperform; the current median 12-month price target is $59 vs. Thursday's close at $51.29

Up 4% year-to-date

Analyst quote:

"Intuit is a very well run and positioned firm. We simply would like to buy the stock a few multiple points cheaper in order to compensate for the risk that the SMB market stays in the dumps longer than expected."

--

Written by Michael Baron in New York.

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Michael Baron

.

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