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Apple stock again named the 'top pick' for investors in 2012

Apple was the No. 1 stock recommended to investors by Ticonderoga Securities in 2011, and it holds that title once again at the start of 2012.

Analyst Brian White said in a note to investors on Tuesday that he is comfortable once again recommending AAPL stock to investors at the start of the new year. He noted that Apple was the best performer in the 20 companies covered by Ticonderoga, seeing growth of 26 percent.

"We believe Apple's portfolio in 2012 has the opportunity to create more excitement around the story with our expectation for the unveiling of iTV, a "iPad mini" and a major upgrade with the iPhone 5, while we expect the company to finally come to grips with its surging cash balance and issue its first cash dividend," White wrote.

White has long been an advocate of Apple using its large cash hoard for a "generous cash dividend" or stock repurchase. And he has not been alone in that view, though Apple so far has shown no interest in offering investors a dividend.

Executives at Apple have said they are content to hang on to their cash reserves in order to take advantage of "strategic opportunities." In 2010, the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs dismissed the possibility of a dividend, noting that the company prefers to make big moves.

Regardless, White believes that Apple is a solid choice for investors following a "tough 2011," even as uncertainty looms over where the economy is headed in 2012. He noted that Apple has proven to be more resilient than other technology companies in the face of a recession.

White's glowing outlook for AAPL stock in 2012 was joined on Tuesday by Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray, who said he too sees the company poised for growth in the next year. He sees a redesigned "iPhone 5," a third-generation iPad and a full-fledged Apple television as potential products in a strong 2012.

Summarizing his previous predictions, Munster said he believes Apple's next-generation iPhone will sport a slightly larger screen than the current 3.5-inch size, and he expects it to launch in the late summer or early fall of 2012. His projections also assume that Apple will replace the current iPad 2 with a new third-generation model, though he said the company could expand the product lineup into new price ranges.

Munster has also long believed that Apple plans to build a full-fledged connected television in the near future. Rumors of an Apple television have picked up steam in recent months since it was revealed that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson before he died that he had "cracked" the secret to a simple HDTV.