Buy, sell or hold? The most hotly debated stocks of 2012

These eight hot stocks were the most hyped or derided shares in 2012. Here's what you should know about their prospects now.

The biggest stock ever
Buzz Apple
P/E ratio: 10.7
Earnings growth: 21%
Yield: 2.0%

The first year of the post-Steve Jobs era got off to a roaring start, as Apple became the most valuable company of all time. It launched the iPhone 5, the iPad mini, and oh, yeah, a big dividend -- its first since 1995.

The latest buzz: After soaring for most of 2012, the stock has sunk 20% since the September unveiling of the iPhone 5, which was considered an evolutionary, not revolutionary, advance. On Jan. 25, Apple briefly fell to no. 2 among the world's most valuable companies, slipping behind Exxon Mobil (XOM, Fortune 500). Investors may fear thatApple (AAPL, Fortune 500) is beginning to lose its innovative edge.

Watch: 'Cheap' stocks are not always good buys

What to do: Ignore the fears and buy. Despite Apple's run, the stock's price/earnings ratio, based on projected profits, is half its earnings growth rate. By contrast, Google's P/E is virtually the same as its annual growth rate.

Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty thinks 2013 sales could grow 20%, driven by a 27% rise in iPhone shipments and a 40% jump in iPads.

Related: When 48 million iPhones isn't enough

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu adds that Apple is doing a better job of making sure adequate supply is available to meet demand, as seen with the iPhone 5. He says that should boost gross profit margins, which are already an enviable 40%.

Plus, more innovation may be on the way this year, with rumors of a streaming radio service and a television.

Says Mark Spellman, manager of the Value Line Income & Growth Fund: "Apple's track record with product launches is really, really good, and now you're not paying much at all for the stock."


  @lamonicabuzz - Last updated January 30 2013 05:20 AM ET
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