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Naughty or Nice: 7 Stocks Topping Santa's Lists


In the spirit of the season, The Fiscal Times presents seven headline-making companies that have earned extra stocking stuffers or big lumps of coal.

The holiday season is approaching fast, meaning Santa Claus is busy making his list and checking it twice. In the spirit of the season, we at The Fiscal Times offer Santa our help in the form of a short list of companies with the kind of reward that their 2012 market performance warrants. In some cases, that's a stocking stuffed with chocolate, juicy mandarin oranges, silver dollars and other goodies; in others, nothing but some lumps of coal.

Before we get to our list, we should note that a few companies fall into neither the naughty or nice camp – or perhaps both. For instance, in many respects Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has had an excellent year, rolling out new versions of its iPhone and iPad and introducing a new, smaller iPad, as well as fighting off Samsung's (PINK:SSNLF) threat to its patents. But the Android operating system continues to nibble away at Apple's dominance, and investors have driven the share price down so much recently that Apple can't qualify for any of our rewards this Christmas.

But there are other examples of companies whose management have taken particularly intelligent or foolish decisions over the course of 2012 that deserve to be recognized – or named (yet again) and shamed. Each of these companies should be at or close to the top of Santa's two lists.

Naughty: Facebook (NASDAQ:FB)
Perhaps the most obvious candidate for a lump of coal is the social networking company whose IPO was bungled so badly. True, the immediate fault can be traced to the deal's underwriters and to the exchange that was ill-prepared for the frenzied attempts on the part of investors to transact trades, but the company played a role, too. Had it not acceded to an IPO price that clearly was very richly priced, with no room for error, a stumble wouldn't have had such a negative impact on the share price and the news of a disappointing initial earnings release wouldn't have been as devastating. Even after a strong bounce in recent weeks, the stock remains 26 percent below the IPO price.

Nice: Michael Kors Holdings (NYSE:KORS)
Other high-end retailers have shown signs of faltering revenues or sales levels, but not Michael Kors, which went public almost exactly one year ago. It has rolled out new boutiques within larger department stores, and benefitted from increased recognition of the company's brand name. Revenue was up 74 percent, as of the end of its fiscal second quarter in late September, while earnings doubled. In contrast to Facebook, here is an IPO that under-promised and over-delivered. Shares are up 87 percent this year.

Naughty: J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP)
The idea of "store in store" boutiques may be working for Michael Kors, but as a part of the overhaul plan by J.C. Penney's new management team, they appear to be a dismal failure. Shoppers are staying away in droves, left disaffected by the lack of bargains, and the company has even had to suspend its dividend to preserve cash. The stock has lost 45 percent in 2012. That earns the beleaguered retailer a few lumps of coal right there.
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