Monday'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 Monday:

Company

Closing Price

CAPS Rating

(5 max)

%

Change

52-Week

Range

Pacific Ethanol (NASDAQ:PEIX)

$4.43

*

(22.28%)

$4.40-$19.54

U.S. Auto Parts Network (NASDAQ:PRTS)

$8.01

*

(13.59%)

$5.07-$12.61

Tween Brands (NYSE:TWB)

$27.02

**

(12.53%)

$25.60-$49.00

Countrywide Financial (NYSE:CFC)

$10.57

*

(12.43%)

$10.25-$45.26

Finish Line (NASDAQ:FINL)

$3.42

*

1.79%

$3.14-$14.78

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 74,000-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 think some may be worth shorting.

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

Worse
We begin with Pacific Ethanol. Along with peers at Aventine Renewable Energy and VeraSun Energy -- itself a former "worst stock" -- it took a hit when a Goldman Sachs analyst criticized all three firms for unrelenting expansion. Quoting:

Incredibly, all three companies ... are sticking with long-standing aggressive growth plans, even in the face of significant negative free cash flow and weak ethanol crush spreads. [Emphasis added.]

That may be an understatement. Looking at the company's balance sheets, through the first nine months of 2007, Pacific Ethanol burned through 32% -- or $35 million -- of the cash it had on hand at the end of last year.

Hey, guys? Why not just toss that moola into a bonfire? At least then you'd be warm. Sheesh.

Worser
Next up is Countrywide Financial. It suffered at the hands of credit rating agency  Moody's, which left open the possibility of further downgrading the banker's debt.

The concern, apparently, is Countrywide's financial strength. Moody's says the bank has burned through $10 billion in cash since August. If that's true, Countrywide is staving off a bankruptcy filing mostly by the grace of multiple capital infusions.

Worst
But our winner is shoe retailer Finish Line. I know what you're thinking: How could that be? Finish Line's stock, um, finished higher on a day when the broader market indexes plunged.

To which I respond: Don't be fooled, Fools. In my opinion, this one's a stinker. A big, fat, hairy stinker for trying to pull out of a $1.5 billion deal for peer Genesco (NYSE: GCO  ) .

It's been an ugly battle, made worse on Monday when Swiss banker UBS (NYSE: UBS  ) went to court to withdraw its commitment to finance the Finish Line-Genesco deal. UBS claims that the combined entity could be insolvent, according to press reports.

Ouch.

Let's be fair: We already know Finish Line has problems. And Genesco probably is that bad. Return on capital has fallen from 15.3% at the beginning of 2005 to just 12.2% over the trailing 12 months. But shouldn't Finish Line have seen this coming? Everyone else did.

Seriously. Investors gave the stock a 15% haircut the day the deal for Genesco was announced. Shortly thereafter, my Foolish colleagues openly questioned management's sanity. To wit: Anyone paying attention knew that this combination was a capital-consuming bonfire in the making.

All they had to do was look at Genesco's free cash flow, or lack thereof:

Metric

Trailing 12 Months

2006

2005

2004

Cash from operations

$76.2

$70.6

$105.0

$99.8

Capital expenditures

($80.0)

($73.3)

($56.9)

($39.5)

Free cash flow

($3.8)

($2.7)

$48.1

$60.3

Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Numbers in millions.

Sorry, Finish Line, but you deserve to eat this loss. You, too, UBS.

Finish Line and its who-needs-due-diligence-when-you-have-free-money management team ... Monday'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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