5. Priceline ( PCLN)

Company profile: Priceline, with $30 billion in market value, is an international online travel aggregator that offers booking services for hotel rooms, airline tickets, rental cars, cruises, and other vacation packages.

Priceline.com reported Monday that its fourth-quarter profit rose 66% to $4.41 per share, while revenue grew 36% to $991 million. Total bookings rose by almost 52% from a year ago to almost $5 billion.

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 26% this year and have a three-year average annual return of 91%. S&P has its shares rated "buy," with a $650 price target, about a 10% premium to the current price, while analysts surveyed by the firm give its shares eight "buy" ratings, 11 "buy/holds," four "holds," and one "weak hold." It is expected to earn $29.76 per share in 2012, up 29% over last year.

4. Dell ( DELL)

Company profile: Dell is a manufacturer and direct seller of notebook computers, desktop computers, software and other peripheral equipment. It's also building a retail store presence.

Investor takeaway: Dell's shares are up 19% this year and have a three-year annualized return of 28%. S&P gives Dell a "buy" recommendation after lowering it from "strong buy" on Feb. 15 on valuation concerns. It has a $19 price target, an 8% premium to its current price. Analysts give its shares 11 "buy" ratings, five "buy/holds," 15 "holds," two "weak holds," and two "sells," according to an S&P survey. Those analysts estimate 2012 earnings at $2.14 per share and that they will decline by 4% in 2013.

3. Microsoft ( MSFT)

Company profile: Microsoft, with a market value of $264 billion, develops the Windows PC operating system, the Office suite of productivity software, and its other businesses include the Xbox 360 video game console, the Bing Internet search engine, business software, and software for mobile devices.

Cloud computing, or the computing world's shift to Web-based applications, is the latest challenge to its operating system but it is likely to find new ventures in cloud computing to make up for that.

Investor takeaway: Its shares are up 22% this year and have a three-year average annual return of 25%. Analysts give its shares 14 "buy" ratings, nine "buy/holds," 14 "holds," and one "sell," according to an S&P survey. It's expected to earn $2.70 per share this year and that that will grow by 11% in 2013.

2. Baidu ( BIDU)

Company profile: Baidu, with a $36 billion market value, is the biggest Chinese-language Internet search engine provider, with about 500,000 advertisers.

Investor takeaway: Baidu's shares are up 16% this year and have a three-year average annual average return of 111%. S&P, which has it rated "buy," with a $180 price target, a 33% premium to the current price, found 16 "buy" ratings, nine "buy/holds," five "holds" and one "weak hold," in a survey of analysts.

Two weeks ago, the company reported a 77% rise in profit in the fourth quarter, to 93 cents a share, beating analysts' estimates by 2 cents, on an 83% jump in revenue.

1. Apple ( AAPL)

Company profile: Apple, with a market value of $487 billion and one of the most widely held stocks in the world, designs and manufactures consumer-electronic devices, including personal computers under the Mac name, iPad tablets, the iPhone, and the iPod portable music player. Its iTunes online store is the largest music distributor in the world.

Investor takeaway: Apple's shares are up 29% this year and have a three-year average annual return of 80%. Analysts give its shares 36 "buy" ratings, 13 "buy/holds," four "holds," and one "sell," according to an S&P survey. S&P itself has the shares rated "buy" with a $650 price target, a 24% premium to the current price, which would then give it a price-to-earnings ratio of 16.

S&P says it expects some "shareholder friendly" actions on the part of the company, which had cash flow of $29.61 per share in 2011 and $26 billion in cash on the balance sheet at year-end. Analysts expect earnings of $42.59 per share this year and that they will rise by 10% next year.

Morningstar analysts put a "fair value estimate" on its shares of $560. They say "the iPhone remains the cornerstone of Apple's consumer strategy, and few opportunities loom larger than the global handset market. The iPhone already accounts for more than 50% of revenue, and we expect this percentage to grow to more than 60%" within the next few years.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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