Goldman Sachs' Consumer Stock Best Buys for 2012

(Adds other picks in the past six months.)

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Goldman Sachs' ( GS) latest "Conviction List" for the Americas, a roster of "buy"-rated U.S. stocks, highlights 11 consumer companies with upside of as much as 55% in the coming year.

Goldman's research team is more upbeat than its economists, who have a bleak outlook for 2012 in calling for a little-changed S&P 500 Index and economic growth of a mere 1.5%.

But its analysts said that certain sectors, including select consumer cyclical stocks, have "attractive risk/reward," and should handily beat the broader market.

That's because improving employment trends, moderating prices, and an inability of Americans to defer some purchases any longer have been bolstering consumer spending. For example, one gauge of U.S. consumer confidence last week rose to a six-month high and online holiday sales have already surged 15% from last year, to almost $25 billion.

This is the season when investment banks, strategists and fund managers make their picks for the following year. If there's been one thread, it's that consumer stocks are poised to rebound.

S&P Capital IQ expects the economy to strengthen in what is one of the most bullish assessments.

The research firm says certain industries tend to lead in the period following an economic slump. Those are consumer discretionary stocks, which outperformed the broader market 100% of the time, with an average gain of 29.5% within six months of the market bottom; followed by information technology, 80% of the time, with an average increase of 30%; industrials, 80% of the time, with a 26% advance; and materials, 80% of the time, with a 24.8% gain.

There have been poor performers this year that have room to run in 2012. According to TheStreet analyst Lindsey Bell, brewer Molson Coors Brewing ( TAP), carmaker Ford ( F) and toy company Hasbro ( HAS) would be consumer shares to gain the most from an upturn in the economy.

Even financial shares, which have been in the dog house for most of this year, may be more prosperous in 2012. William Blair, a Chicago-based investment bank, has selected credit card firm Visa ( V), insurance broker AON ( AOC) and check-cashing company DFC Global ( DLLR) in favor of the big global banks to lead the financial sector next year.

As for Goldman Sachs, its global equity strategy unit has its own set of picks for the coming year that may differ from the "conviction buy" list, as they are based on different criteria. Besides consumer stocks, Goldman has in the past six months put drugmaker Pfizer ( PFE), business-software company Oracle ( ORCL), Great Plains Energy ( GXP) and construction-equipment maker Caterpillar ( CAT) on its "Conviction List."

In inverse order of potential upside appreciation, here are Goldman Sachs' 2012 consumer cyclical sector stock picks, which have an average gain of 16.9% for this year:

11. McDonald's ( MCD)

Company Profile: McDonald's generates revenue through company-owned restaurants, franchise royalties and licensing. It has 33,100 restaurants in 117 countries.

2011 Return: 28%.

Market Cap: $100 billion.

Potential Upside: 5% to $103.

10. Beam ( BEAM)

Company Profile: Beam is the fourth-largest premium spirits company in the world. Its most notable alcohol brands are Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Canadian Club.

McDonald's is getting its biggest boost from abroad, as the company last week reported that its Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa division posted the strongest same-store sales growth in November of all its business units, with sales up 8.1% from the year before.

2011 Return: 13%.

Market Cap: $8 billion.

Potential Upside: 7.4% to $56.

9. General Mills ( GIS)

Company Profile: General Mills makes breakfast cereals, refrigerated baking dough and other snack foods, including ice cream and yogurt. Its brands include Cheerios, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury and Yoplait. International sales account for about 20% of revenue.

2011 Return: 13.6%.

Market Cap: $26 billion.

Potential Upside: 9% to $44.

8. Nike ( NKE)

Company Profile: Nike is the world leader in sports footwear and apparel.

UBS Investment Research (UBS) reiterated its Nike "buy" rating this week with a $106 price target, citing strong holiday sales and growing sales potential from China.

2011 Return: 14%.

Market Cap: $36 billion.

Potential Upside: 10.6% to $108 (in six months).

7. TJX Cos. ( TJX)

Company Profile: TJX is the nation's largest off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions under the store names T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Winners, HomeGoods and HomeSense stores.

2011 Return: 42%.

Market Cap: $24 billion.

Potential Upside: 10.7% to $70

6. Coca-Cola ( KO)

Company Profile: Coca-Cola is the world's largest maker of nonalcoholic beverage concentrates and syrups. Its brands include Coca-Cola, Sprite, Dasani, Powerade and Minute Maid.

2011 Return: 2.7%.

Market Cap: $152 billion.

Potential Upside: 11% to $75.

5. J.M. Smucker Co.

Company Profile: Smuckers makes coffee, fruit spreads, peanut butter, shortening and oils, baking mixes and frostings, and natural products under the brand names Smucker's, Folgers, Dunkin' Donuts coffee, Jif, Crisco, Pillsbury, and Hungry Jack.

2011 Return: 18%

Market Cap: $9 billion

Potential Upside: 11% to $86

4. Williams-Sonoma ( WSM)

Company Profile: Williams-Sonoma is a leader in the home-furnishings industry, and its brands include the Williams-Sonoma stores, which offer high-end cooking utensils and other household products and Pottery Barn stores, which sell casual home accessories.

2011 Return: 10.6%.

Market Cap: $4 billion.

Potential Upside: 11.5% to $44.

3. Whole Foods ( WFM)

Company Profile: Whole Foods Market is the largest U.S. retailer of natural and organic foods. It operates about 300 stores in the U.S., Canada and England.

2011 Return: 37%.

Market Cap: $12 billion.

Potential Upside: 15.7% to $80.

2. Dick's Sporting Goods ( DKS)

Company Profile: Dick's Sporting Goods operates 455 stores in 42 states, mostly in the eastern U.S., as well as 81 Golf Galaxy stores in 30 states.

2011 Return: 3.6%.

Market Cap: $3.7 billion.

Potential Upside: 26% to $49.

1. Comcast ( CMCSA; CMCSK)

Company Profile: Comcast is the largest cable TV operator, serving 52 million households. The firm also offers Internet access and phone service. It combined its cable networks with NBC Universal to create a new 51%-owned venture early this year.

2011 Return: 3.2%.

Market Cap: $47 billion.

Potential Upside: 55% to $35.

>>To see these stocks in action, visit the Goldman Sachs' Consumer Stock Best Buys for 2012 portfolio on Stockpickr.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.