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3. MasterCard ( MA)

Company Profile: MasterCard services and supports credit, debit and related payment programs to financial institutions.

2011 Total Return: 44.3%

Current Share Price: $322.86 (Aug. 25)

Shares of MasterCard have been gaining ground all year, but they really took off earlier this month after the company reported second-quarter results. Earnings were up 33% as revenue jumped 22%. Even the big investors are piling into MasterCard: During the second quarter, billionaire investor Warren Buffett doubled his stake in the card processor.

MasterCard is a darling among analysts, garnering a whopping 27 "buy" ratings from firms like Wells Fargo, Sterne Agee and RBC Capital. Another seven analysts have a "hold" rating on the stock, while one lone research firm says investors should sell the stock. Even after the rally this year, analysts expect the stock to rise 10% to an average price target of $360.74, according to a survey by Bloomberg.


2. National Semiconductor ( NSM)

Company Profile: National Semiconductor designs and manufactures a range of semiconductor products, most of which are analog and mixed-signal integrated circuits.

2011 Total Return: 81.5%

Current Share Price: $24.80 (Aug. 25)

While many technology stocks have languished this year, National Semi has bucked the trend to be the second-best performer among all stocks in the S&P 500. The strong performance has little to do with how well National Semi is performing operationally. In April, Texas Instruments announced a deal to acquire the company for $25 a share in an all-cash transaction of about $6.5 billion.

For that reason, most analysts who still cover National Semi rate the stock "hold" with an average price target of $25. The deal is expected to close sometime later this year, according to the companies.

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