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.
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.
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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)
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)