Santa Claus rally ahead: 3 stocks to buy, 2 to avoid

Consumer buying patterns produce some big holiday winners.

By InvestorPlace Dec 4, 2012 12:35PM

Santa Claus copyright John Lund, JupiterimagesBy Hilary Kramer

iplogoAttention shoppers! That pretty much includes all of us at this time of year. And to add to the mania, we've got an extra long holiday season this year because of the early Thanksgiving.

Early projections for the 2012 holiday season have been a bit mixed. The National Retail Federation estimated sales in November and December would be up 4.1% this year, which would be slower growth than the last two years. Still, it's growth, and the Thanksgiving weekend numbers were encouraging. According to a survey from BIGinsight, the number of shoppers over the weekend increased 9.2% to 247 million, with the average person spending $423, up 6% from $398 last year.

If moneymaking stocks are on your shopping list, I have three ideas for you. But before I get to the stocks I like, I wanted to give you a heads-up on where not to invest. 

I know you might think that your safest bet would be with the big retailers, like Wal-Mart (WMT) and JCPenney (JCP), but I would be leery of those. Why? The main one is bargains. They are great for us as consumers, but they eat into profit margins at the retailers.

Instead, I like other companies that should do well this holiday shopping season without depending on deep price cuts to make their money. Here are three I expect to do well:

1) Amazon (AMZN). Let's start with how more of us are doing our shopping: online. And the king of the cyber world is Amazon, which continues to grow in popularity. The Kindle was especially popular this year, and the devices actually doubled their sales from 2011 on Cyber Monday!

We already know the e-tailer has pricing power from its scale and reach, but the company has become even more successful because of its execution of the growing Groupon (GRPN) style business. This makes the company one step more advanced because it customizes offers by "knowing" its customer. This is a website that is only going to get bigger and better.

2) FedEx (FDX): Now think about how those purchases will be delivered. That's where FedEx comes in. Now, the preferred delivery may not be the higher-priced priority service, but volume on the less-expensive, slower options should be robust. Those who mail their gifts are going to need a way to deliver them, and FDX will be one of the leaders.

3) Abercrombie and Fitch (ANF): Last, think about what's popular. On that score, it's hard to beat Abercrombie and Fitch right now. People love this store. ANF was one of the Black Friday winners, and what's interesting is that they are an extremely popular brand that did better this year with less advertising, which means lower costs. This retailer is still the best of the breed in juniors clothing. Its less expensive, Hollister branded stores are also very popular.

I look for these three companies to have strong holiday seasons, and now is a good time to consider them before any "Santa Claus rally." Stocks pulled back after the last earnings season, which was the worst in five years, and a lot of the bad news is now priced in. I know the market will move based on fiscal cliff headlines, but I do expect to see some of the usual seasonal strength, especially if the news out of Washington gets more positive.

Happy shopping!

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