5 Stocks to Buy in 2012

There's something wrong with each of the five stocks I'm going to present to you today.

But that's a good thing. If there weren't, we'd have to pay full price for these stocks. Instead, we get a cheap crack at five companies that the market is seriously underestimating.

Without further ado, here are five stocks to buy in 2012. In the last section, I'll also tell you exactly when to buy them.

Stock #1: Corning (NYS: GLW) Corning is in the seemingly unsexy glass industry. However, its bread and butter is supporting the tech industry. It had a roller-coaster ride during the dot-com bubble because of its optical fiber business. Today, it's the go-to screen provider to the LCD TV market. Tomorrow's most promising opportunity is its scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass seen in so many of today's smartphones and tablets (although unofficial, Gorilla Glass is widely reported to be the screen glass in Apple's iPhones and iPads). The big opportunity there is moving up form factors and becoming prevalent in big-screen televisions.

However, a few weeks after it raised its dividend, there was the scary news that a Korean customer pulled out of a contract with its Samsung Corning joint venture. The result was Corning reducing its earnings guidance significantly for the fourth quarter.

More than even demand in end markets, I believe the biggest threat to Corning is its customers refusing to pay premiums for Corning's products. The latest news certainly bears that out. However, at current single-digit price multiples, I think a bet on Corning's ability to monetize its current lineup and innovate into the future is justified.

Stock #2: Ford (NYS: F) It's hard to be unbiased about Ford and General Motors (NYS: GM) . People have very strong, polarizing feelings about the companies themselves and the cars they make.

Here's my best shot at reality.

GM went bankrupt during the financial crisis and Ford was battered but survived without emergency government aid. The past was ugly for both carmakers, but both are making huge strides in shoring up their balance sheets, lowering their cost structures, and producing cars people actually want.

Both have trailing and forward P/E ratios well below 10. And GM is actually a bit cheaper on both than Ford. But given the choice between the two today, Ford is the safer bet. It's further along in its renaissance and I love the bold moves CEO Alan Mulally has made in his five years there. He's most likely retiring in the next couple years, but I believe it's his goal to leave Ford a winner.

So far, so good. In fact, last week, it showed its strength by bringing back its dividend.

Stock #3: Wells Fargo (NYS: WFC) Since the banking sector is my specialty, there is a danger of Stockholm Syndrome here. That said, I think there many bargain opportunities in the space. Today, I'll highlight the safest of the American megabanks. Of the biggest six (JPMorgan, Bank of America (NYS: BAC) , Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley), Wells Fargo is the most Main Street. In other words, it's the least Wall Street. It mostly sticks to its basic banking knitting: taking in customer deposits and making loans.

And unlike Bank of America's ill-fated Countrywide purchase, Wells Fargo's purchase of Wachovia during the financial crisis will likely prove an opportunistic masterstroke.

All this is why Warren Buffett has been buying the regular old stock of Wells Fargo but requires special preferred stock and warrants to invest money in Bank of America.

Stock #4: Radio Shack (NYS: RSH) People openly laugh at me when I suggest Radio Shack is a good buy at today's prices. I'm quite aware of the Shack's shortcomings. I get that the proverbial man on the street thinks of it as a clubhouse for electronics geeks.

But someone's shopping there. It's been consistently profitable even through the financial crisis.

Of course, that string was almost broken last quarter when Radio Shack took a hit in severing its relationship with T-Mobile. But don't worry, it's upgrading to Verizon. It now offers mobile phones for the Big Three: Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint. And remember that AT&T may be swallowing up T-Mobile anyway.

That triple-threat combination is a powerful draw as Radio Shack is now more a mobile retailer than anything else. Despite its one-time earnings hit last quarter, it trades for just 10 times earnings (and throws in a tasty 4.5% dividend yield to boot).

Stock #5: National Presto (NYS: NPK) One of my favorite small-cap plays is an eclectic company called National Presto. It sells kitchen appliances, adult diapers, and ammunition. Yes, that's a goofy mix, but here are three reasons why I love this company:

  1. It's gotten in the habit of paying out a massive special dividend each year that you don't see reflected on Yahoo! Finance. The 1.1% reported dividend yield jumps to eight times that size (8.8%) once you factor in the special dividend.

  2. Its balance sheet has no debt and cash equal to almost 20% of its market capitalization.

  3. Its CEO, Maryjo Cohen, owns 28% of the company, so she's very aligned with shareholder interests.

When to buy these five stocks
I believe each of these five stocks is a good buy today. In other words, I think they'll collectively beat the Dow (INDEX: ^DJI) and the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) from here. But patience in the market is rewarded. Here are the prices that make these good buys absolutely great buys:

  • Corning below $12 a share.

  • Ford below $10 a share.

  • Wells Fargo below $25 a share.

  • Radio Shack below $12 a share (it's below that now!).

  • National Presto below $90 a share.

I personally love the opportunity in each of these stocks, but our chief investment officer selected a different stock as the No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock in our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this legendary company.

At the time thisarticle was published

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