Searching for Profits: Top Ticker Searches for 2012

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Some of the biggest business stories of the past year drew the most Internet search traffic to the newsmakers, which is really no big surprise. Whether just for curiosity or for help in making an investment decisions, here are the companies that drew the most searches in 2012 according to the folks at Yahoo! Finance:

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) — Shares up 30% on the year, even given swoon that started in September.

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) — The botched IPO of the year without question. Still, with 1 billion users — and continued support from the lead underwriters — have brought the shares back from a low below $20.

Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) — Stock is down 75% this year as Zynga’s relationship with Facebook changed. Real-money gambling is on the horizon, at least in Nevada, and that’s helping keep the stock off recent lows.

First Solar Inc. (NASDAQ: FSLR) — The bellwether of the solar industry. Once a growth stock that topped $300 a share, it now trades like a cult stock, with nearly 5 million shares a day trading hands at around 10% of its past peak.

Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: ARNA) — A boomer this year, following FDA approval of its weight loss drug. Shares now trade more than four times higher than they did in January 2012.

Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) — Another social media stock that has taken its lumps this year. From a high of more than $25 a share to a current price below $5.

Vivus Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) — Received approval for its weight loss drug this year as well, but sales have not lived up to expectations. Shares are down more than 50% from their annual peak.

American International Group Inc. (NYSE: AIG) — A testament to the bank bailout program initiated under the Bush administration and continued under Obama’s watch. Shares are up more than 50% in 2012.

Alpha Natural Resources Inc. (NYSE: ANR) — Bankrupt Patriot Coal Co. aside, Alpha has been the hardest hit of the nation’s coal miners this year, down about 65%. Low natural gas prices have decimated the industry and despite hopeful noises from the miners, 2013 could be just as tough a year.

Westport Innovations Inc. (NASDAQ: WPRT) — This is one of those clean-energy plays that generated a lot of enthusiasm and not a lot of profit. Shares are down nearly 50% from their annual peak.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (NASDAQ: GMCR) — The maker of the Keurig single-cup coffee brewing system spent a good part of the year in the looming shadow of a competing product from …

Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) — The king of the $5 cup of coffee is testing a $7 cup. Our guess is that customers will pay for it.

ProShares Ultra VIX Short-term Futures ETF (NYSEMKT: UVXY) — When nothing but a bet against the current market trend will do.

Paul Ausick

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