After sorting through thousands of pages of Wall Street’s 2012 outlooks, we discerned the most important point for equity investors: the consensus top-down forecast for the S&P 500 is 1,335, or a 6.2% gain (the bottom-up forecast is for a gain of 15.4% to 1,451). Likely, the second most important piece that investors and traders are looking for is what stocks to buy in 2012.
One of the notable shortfalls of this exercise is the size and number of themes and subsequent lists. Which stocks deserve the most attention: the list from the fundamental strategist, the portfolio strategist or the technical analyst? Three firms had over 100 recommended stocks, which does not help out the investor who is looking for a few names to add to their portfolio. Many times the themes seemingly contradict each other. One firm recommended a stock as a long idea in a “Cyclically Attractive Risk/Reward” basket and on the next page listed the same stock as a short idea due to its high foreign revenue in their “International Sales” basket.
Last year, after cutting though all that noise we tallied the most recommended stocks for 2011. Last year’s list had some good picks [IBM (NYSE:IBM), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)] and some losers [Aflac (NYSE:AFL), Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT)], but in its entirety underperformed the S&P 500.
Looking at the 2012 lists of stocks: United Tech. (NYSE:UTX), Chevron (NYSE:CVX), MSFT, Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), PG, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL), Kraft (KFT), Target (NYSE:TGT), Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP), Walgreen (WAG) and Exxon (NYSE:XOM) were mentioned most often. Microsoft and Procter & Gamble were also most recommended for 2011.
 “2012 - The Cycle Continues”. Birinyi Associates, Inc. January 2012.
 “Themes and Stocks for 2011”. 11-S-09. Birinyi Associates, Inc. 1/10/11.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.