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Top 10 stocks in 2012

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As 2012 winds to a close, it’s time to take a look at the choices that made investors rich this year — or made them tear their hair out. We’ll start with the little ones, those stocks that can double or triple or even more over the course of a year, as long as you peek under the right rocks to dig them up. Here are the Top Ten stocks on the Russell 3000 for 2012 through the end of November.

SF Bridge

10. Threshold Pharmaceuticals (THLD) Up 268.0 percent

Based in South San Francisco, California, this biotech develops drugs to treat cancerous tumors. Starting in February, when a partnership with Merck was followed by some successful drug trials, the stock grew nearly sevenfold in the space of two months. Subsequent concern about competition drove the stock back down from a September high of 8.94 to around 4 by the middle of November, but it wasn’t enough erase all of the huge early-year gains.

Image: The San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)


9. Affymax (AFFY) Up 270.2 percent

Another biotech, Affymax develops treatments for anemia in people with kidney disease. The company, based in Palo Alto, California, got FDA approval for its lead drug, Omontys, back in March, and the stock has been on a yearlong spree ever since. After starting the year at 6.5, Affymax peaked at more than 27 in mid-October, before dropping back to the low 20s.  

Image: A Stanford University student bikes her way through the halls on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)


8. Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV) Up 276.6 percent

A home builder based in Red Bank, New Jersey, Hovnanian got beat up during the housing meltdown. Its share price went from over 12 in March 2008 to a bottom-dwelling 0.58 in March 2009. The 2012 performance was mostly about its re-emergence: Hovnanian started the year at 1.75 and climbed throughout to finish at around 5, in part because of its wise decision to buy up land while home prices were crashing. 

Image: (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)


7. Schiff Nutrition International (SHF) Up 292.1 percent

Schiff makes and markets nutritional supplements, vitamins and energy bars; its best-known line is the Tiger’s Milk nutrition bars.  Most of its positive movement came very late in the year: In October, Bayer offered $34 a share for the company, spiking the price by more than 54 percent, and the shares jumped another 30 percent on November 16 when British firm Reckitt Benckiser Group offered $42 a share.

Image: The CEO of Bayer AG, Marijn Dekkers. (Photo: Volker Hartmann / DAPD)

San Fran

6. Sunesis Pharmaceuticals (SNSS) Up 310.3 percent

Like Threshold, Sunesis (formerly known as Mosaic Pharmaceuticals) is a biotech based in South San Francisco that makes cancer treatments. A simple announcement on September 11 that Sunsesis was expanding the number of patients in the trial for its leukemia drug triggered a $25 million investment from Royalty Pharma and sent the stock up by more than 35 percent in a single afternoon. The stock peaked at 6.34 on October 8 — at that point, it was up 440 percent on the year.

Image: A group of rowers make their make their way past the South End Rowing Club and Dolphin Club at Aquatic Park as fog covers parts of the skyline in San Francisco, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)


5. PGT, Inc. (PGTI) Up 315.5 percent

Based in North Venice, Florida, PGT makes impact-resistant windows and doors. The story for this company wasn’t so much a single breakthrough as a slow accumulation of good earnings-growth news over the course of the year. In mid-November, the company compounded the good news by announcing it would buy back $20 million in outstanding common stock.

Image: In this May 1, 2010 photo, Alfred Andreu, right, and his wife Angie Moro-Andreu sit together in front of their newly-installed impact-resistant windows at their house in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)


4. Patrick Industries (PATK) Up 323.1 percent

Patrick manufactures parts for the RV and manufactured housing industries, from the RV capital of the world, Elkhart, Indiana. The company was on a bit of an acquisition spree this year, buying up Décor, an Oregon-based maker of RV parts, in March, and Middlebury Hardwood Products in October. It also benefited from renewed strength in the industry: There are 273,600 RVs projected to be sold this year, up from 165,700 just two years ago.

Image: In this photo taken Nov. 18, 2009, recreational vehicles are ready sales at International RV World in Elkhart, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)


3. Ellie Mae, Inc. (ELLI) Up 348.1 percent

Like the similarly named Fannie Mae, Ellie Mae is in the mortgage business, making software for compliance and other issues related to mortgage loans. Its year got off to a bang with first quarter revenues increasing by 97 percent; then in August, Ellie Mae had one of the greatest earnings beats of all time, beating the analysts’ consensus by more than 90 percent. That sent the stock up by 28 percent in a single day.

Image: In this Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, photo taken with a fish eye, a home for sale is shown in Miami Lakes, Fla. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, that the rate on the 30-year loan increased to 3.39 percent from 3.36 percent. The previous week’s rate was the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

diet pill

2.  Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA) Up 390.1 percent

Based in San Diego, Arena is a biotech making drugs for a wide variety of treatments, but foremost to combat obesity. The company got approval for its anti-obesity drug Belviq from the FDA in June, making it the first such drug to get to the market in 13 years. In May and June alone, Arena’s share price was up by 325 percent.

Image: This photo provided by Food and Drug Administration shows Arena Pharmaceutical’s anti-obesity pill Belviq. The Food and Drug Administration has approved Belviq, the first new prescription drug for long-term weight loss to enter the U.S. market in over a decade. The agency cleared the pill Wednesday for adults who are obese or are overweight with at least one medical complication, such as diabetes or high cholesterol. (AP Photo/Food and Drug Administration)

raleigh1. BioDelivery Sciences Inc. (BDSI) Up 432.8 percent

The BioDelivery story actually starts last year: In September of 2011, the Raleigh, North Carolina, biotech announced that it had missed its goals for a key set of trials for its lead pain-management drug, and the stock tanked, losing two thirds of its value in a single day. But after inking an agreement with Endo Pharmaceuticals in January to bring that drug to market, BDSI’s stock more than doubled. When the patent office extended BDSI’s patents for another seven years in April, Endo ponied up another $15 million and took over the marketing of the drug. Then, in September, a key rival announced it was taking its own similar drug off the market due to concerns of pediatric exposure. At its peak, the stock had gained more than 700 percent on the year, although it’s sunk back earthward in the past two months. Still, the losses weren’t enough to prevent BioDelivery Sciences from being the biggest-gaining stock of the entire year.

Image: A statue of Presidents from North Carolina, Andrew Jackson, top, James Polk, left, and Andrew Johnson, stands on the grounds of the state capitol in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

For more from Tom Nawrocki, see:

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