Thursday's Worst Stocks in the World

Bad days. We all have them; some of us deserve them.

Here are five stocks whose naughty ways drew investors' scorn on Thursday:

Company

Closing Price

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

% Change

52-Week Range

Ruby Tuesday (NYSE:RT)

$16.23

*

(13.67%)

$15.87-$30.80

ZipRealty (NASDAQ:ZIPR)

$5.70

**

(13.51%)

$5.63-$8.49

Origin Agritech (NASDAQ:SEED)

$11.32

**

(11.08%)

$6.54-$15.12

China Finance (NASDAQ:JRJC)

$36.70

*

(10.66%)

$3.95-$47.68

Scottish Re (NYSE:SCT)

$3.23

**

(7.98%)

$2.15-$12.00

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Finance, Motley Fool CAPS.

Naughty?
Well, OK, we can't exactly call these stocks naughty. But none of them get much love from our 65,000-person-strong Motley Fool CAPS community of amateur and professional stock pickers.

To the contrary -- when it comes to these stocks, CAPS investors have gone thumbs-down more often than Roger Ebert. They don't believe any of these stocks are worth owning, and they think some may be worth shorting.

Which of today's candidates is the worst? Read on, dear Fool.

Worse
We begin with China Finance, which fell for reasons not yet reported, just as it did on Monday. Not that there needs to be a reported reason. This table ought to be reason enough to want to sell:

Metrics

TTM*

2006

2005

Return on capital

0.9%

(0.7%)

3.1%

Return on equity

1.8%

(1.0%)

7.2%

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's.
*Trailing 12 months; numbers in millions.

Ouch.

Worser
Next up is Ruby Tuesday, which on Wednesday evening reported lackluster earnings and a miserable 4.8% drop in same-store sales at company-owned locations.

In a twist of irony, franchisors -- you know, the ones not employed by the company -- did better, suffering only a 2.9% decline. But that's not saying much. Ruby Tuesday generates 99% of revenue from company-owned locations.

But there's a plan to stabilize the business, right? Right?!? If so, it won't take hold soon. Comps are expected to dip by 6% to 8% in the current quarter and 3% to 5% for all of fiscal 2008.

CAPS investors can't claim to be surprised. One, Pickemu, put it bluntly earlier today:

I don't hate Ruby Tuesday, I actually think that [its] all you can eat lunch salad bar is pretty good. The other items on the menu are ok, but I find myself wondering what differentiates Ruby Tuesday from other restaurants, and I come up with disadvantages rather than advantages.

'Nuff said.

Worst
But our winner is digital realtor ZipRealty, which yesterday morning cut its fiscal 2007 revenue guidance to $97.5 million-$102.5 million from an earlier forecast of $105 million-$110 million. The company also announced a plan to save $4 million through cutbacks and layoffs. Well, sort of. Here's the headline of the press release:

ZipRealty Announces Cost Rationalization Plan and Revises 2007 Revenue Forecast

Now, here's the opening text of the release:

ZipRealty announced today that, due to ongoing challenges in the residential real estate and related home mortgage markets, the Company has taken steps to reduce its cost structure to align it to current market conditions. Specifically, management expects it can lower its current operating expense structure by approximately $4 million annually. The majority of these reductions come from the elimination of positions in the corporate headquarters and the field offices, and the remainder is expected to come from improvements in operating efficiencies. [Emphasis added.]

Look, ZipRealty, this isn't some scientific experiment you're conducting. Rationalization is a defense mechanism. Go ahead, look it up.

All firms experience tough times. When those tough times come, employees tend to lose their jobs. That stinks, and it stinks here too. But we can at least deal with reality as it is, instead of trying to sugarcoat it or -- worse -- rationalize it.

ZipRealty and its "let's pretend this isn't really a layoff" management team ... Thursday's worst stock in the CAPS world.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think by signing up for CAPS today. It's 100% free to participate.

See you back here Monday for more stock horror stories.


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