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A new year, improved prospects.
That's the hope at Staples Inc., a Framingham-based company winding down a year in which its stock price has dropped 46.5 percent.
The plunge, analysts say, is driven by Staples' decelerated earnings growth, heavy investment in Staples.com and an over-stored competitive environment.
It's also attributed to problems encountered by the company's office-supply superstore rivals--the publicly held Office Depot Inc. of Delray Beach, Fla., and OfficeMax Inc. of Cleveland. Office Depot also is facing earnings pressure and undergoing an extensive business review, and the company anticipates negative comparable store sales for the fourth quarter. …