Kiplinger's Stock Market Madness 2011

Which of these sweet 16 stocks do you think will earn your portfolio more over the next three years? Cast your votes to crown the winner of our bracket.

It's that time of year -- the most exciting time for college-basketball fans and the most unproductive time for workers tracking their NCAA tournament office pools. But forget about the March Madness you know for now. Instead focus on our stock market sweet 16.

We’ve compiled the top 16 performers of Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index over the past three years to set up our own stock bracket. But just because these stocks topped the charts in the past doesn’t mean they’ll get top billing this go-round. Which stocks do you think will do best over the next three years? Let us know by visiting our Facebook page and becoming a fan.

Here’s how our game will work: Every weekday throughout the NCAA tournament, we’ll feature a face-off on Facebook between two of these sweet 16 stocks and ask you to vote for your pick. The company with the most votes will advance to the next round of our tournament until only one winner remains.

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Become our fan on Facebook and vote for the best stocks to own in Kiplinger's Stock Market Madness.

Tipoff for our first matchup -- between number-one seed Netflix (symbol NFLX), and number-16 AutoZone (AZO) -- will be today, Monday, March 14, at noon. Polls will close tomorrow at 10 a.m. And the next matchup will start, again, at noon. Our Championship face-off will take place on Monday, April 4 -- the same day as the men’s NCAA Championship game.

Below are the sweet 16 stocks, seeded based on annualized three-year returns as of March 4.


1. Netflix (NFLX, 88.4%): This company changed the way we rent movies and destroyed the video-store industry by offering DVD rentals by mail and now online video streaming. But the competition is heating up -- Amazon just introduced streaming-video service and Facebook is now letting users rent Warner Brothers movies.

2. F5 Networks (FFIV, 77.2%): This maker of networking products helps companies manage Internet traffic and serves the fast-growing cloud computing and mobile-applications markets.

3. (PCLN, 59.6%): This name-your-own-price travel-booking site has helped aspiring travelers score lower-priced plane tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, vacation packages and cruises. International travel continues to be one of the company’s biggest growth areas.

4. Apple (AAPL, 42.4%): The tech juggernaut that changes the face of the consumer electronics industry nearly every time it launches a new product -- such as the iconic iPod, iPhone and iPad -- may still have room to grow even bigger.

5. Family Dollar Stores (FDO, 38.4%): The discount retailer attracts cost-conscious customers for low-priced necessities, helping it generate stable earnings. It’s also attracted a buyout offer from investment firm Trian Group, led by activist investor Nelson Peltz.

6. (AMZN, 38.0%): The world’s largest Internet retailer changed how we shop and how retailers do business. From the Kindle, the first e-reader of its kind, to online streaming video, management has continued to innovate while trying to keep pace with the competition.

7. Altera (ALTR, 37.0%): This maker of programmable semiconductor chips has benefited from the global recovery. The company sells to telecommunication firms, data-communications firms and industrial companies.

8. Ross Stores (ROST, 36.7%): This discount retailer has been supplying consumers with affordable designer clothes, accessories and home goods for years.

9. Cognizant Technology Solutions (CTSH, 35.8%): This provider of information- technology, consulting and outsourcing services has been rolling in cash as companies have increasingly sent their business abroad. But while outsourcing to areas of the world with low labor costs remains popular, Cognizant operates in a competitive industry with big players such as India-based Infosys.

10. Limited Brands (LTD, 35.5%): One of the hottest brands of the ’80s and ’90s boasts one of the best management teams in retail and is thriving under its Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works brands. But watch out for rising cotton prices, which could put pressure on profit margins.

11. Cerner (CERN, 34.2%): The developer of clinical-information systems for hospitals and health care networks is benefiting from government regulation that gives hospitals and clinics incentives to use its kind of technology for billing and recordkeeping.

12. Big Lots (BIG, 33.1%): This discount retailer offers everything from food to furniture, clothes and electronics, and it’s looking to grow by opening new stores all over the U.S.

13. Ford Motor Co. (F, 33.0%): The carmaker has made an impressive turnaround. Ford is showing a better knack for bringing to market cars that consumers like. It has also done an impressive job of cutting costs. But competition is tight as General Motors and Toyota get their engines back in drive.

14. Red Hat (RHT, 33.0%): This company makes Linux operating-system software for businesses. Red Hat is well positioned to take advantage of cloud computing (storing files on the Internet instead of in a physical computer) and virtualization (allowing one physical computer to act like multiple machines.) Red Hat has consistently gained market share since 2004, but it struggles to compete with Microsoft.

15. NetApp (NTAP, 32.2%): NetApp helps companies store digital information. Demand for storing that data -- whether it’s documents or videos -- grows as more content goes digital. Data storage is expected to grow faster than the overall information-technology sector. And NetApp is poised to gain market share with new products and better distribution.

16. AutoZone (AZO, 31.5%): The seller of auto parts in the U.S. and Mexico was a hit during the recession, as people opted to repair their cars rather than buy new ones. In truth, people will always need to fix their cars.

Become our fan on Facebook and vote for the best stocks to own in Kiplinger's Stock Market Madness.


Jennifer Schonberger
Staff Writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance