Wednesday'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 Wednesday:

Company

Closing Price

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

% Change

52-Week Range

Spectrum Brands (NYSE:SPC)

$4.06

*

(16.29%)

$3.77-$12.50

MGIC Investment (NYSE:MTG)

$26.16

*

(15.26%)

$21.00-$70.10

WebMD (NASDAQ:WBMD)

$50.10

*

(13.61%)

$33.93-$63.49

Thornburg Mortgage (NYSE:TMA)

$10.04

*

(11.93%)

$7.49-$28.40

PMI Group (NYSE:PMI)

$26.65

*

(9.69%)

$25.80-$51.46

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 70,000-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 film critic Roger Ebert. They don't believe any of these stocks are worth owning, and they believe some may be worth shorting.

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

Bad
We begin with WebMD, which on Tuesday evening said that third-quarter revenue would come in between $86 million and $87 million, lower than earlier guidance of $89 million to $94 million.

CEO Wayne Gattinella explained the shortfall by saying that some of its newer revenue-producing initiatives are "more weighted to 2008 than we expected." All righty, then.

Investors also appear to be disappointed that a rumored acquisition by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) has been replaced by a search and advertising deal with Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) .

But all of this is needless arm-waving. Here's what you need to know: WebMD trades for more than 200 times earnings and sports an otherworldly 2.93 PEG ratio.

Or, as CAPS All-Star hlacheen puts it: "Valued as if 800% EPS growth would be a conservative estimate ..." It isn't. Avoid this stock if you care about your portfolio.

Worse
Next up is home loan insurer MGIC Investment, which -- surprise! -- said it lost money in the third quarter and could lose money next year, too.

One analyst actually called the results "terrible" and the outlook "shocking." Are you kidding, pal? MGIC pays lenders when borrowers default on loans. Foreclosure rates have rarely been higher.

But all the evidence needed to avoid this stinker of a stock has been available for months. Here you go:

Metrics

TTM*

2006

2005

Return on capital

5.2%

7.1%

9.1%

Return on equity

9.8%

13.3%

15.1%

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

Worst
But our winner, and I really hate saying this, is Thornburg Mortgage.

Like MGIC, Thornburg reported huge losses in its third quarter. More than $1 billion, in fact. So much for that AAA-rated portfolio, eh Thornburg? It was the alleged strength of your portfolio that had insiders buying millions in stock in August.

Now that once-proud portfolio is in tatters. Default rates are rising, and management, rushing to avoid a business-crippling credit crunch, sold off $21.9 billion in loans at a loss in Q3.

But exactly none of this is why Thornburg gets today's thumbs-down. A statement from company president Larry Goldstone, made on CNBC in August, is. Goldstone said, and I quote: "I'm pretty confident we'll be able to make that payment."

Goldstone was referring to Thornburg's generous dividend, which was delayed a month but paid in September. Yet now, just a month after that heroic effort, there is no dividend. Shameful.

Look, I get it, Mr. Goldstone. Your company is suffering. You need to cut back on expenses. All of that is perfectly fair. But it defies the principles of conservative management to unreasonably raise the expectations of investors. We don't need a hero, sir. We just need the truth.

Thornburg Mortgage and its let's-just-keep-our-fingers-crossed management team ... Wednesday'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 tomorrow for more stock horror stories.


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