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 (5 max)

% Change

52-Week Range

Helen of Troy (NASDAQ:HELE)

$14.64

**

(14.44%)

$14.56-$29.26

Premier Exhibitions (NASDAQ:PRXI)

$7.44

****

(14.19%)

$5.60-$18.62

Unisys (NYSE:UIS)

$3.23

*

(13.87%)

$3.13-$9.70

Talbots (NYSE:TLB)

$8.02

*

(9.48%)

$7.82-$26.40

Countrywide Financial (NYSE:CFC)

$5.12

*

(6.40%)

$4.43-$45.26

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 gets much love from our 80,000-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 Talbots, which suffered a blow when reports of mediocre December retail sales surfaced. But since soft sales were the case for most retailers, why single out Talbots? Two reasons. First, women's apparel was one of the few categories to fall in December -- down 3.8%, according to researcher SpendingPulse.

Here's the second reason:

Trailing 12 Months

FY 2007

FY 2006

FY 2005

 Free Cash Flow

$26.9

$30.2

$138.7

$62.5

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

At least the folks at HQ won't get cold; the cash-flow bonfire burning in the front lobby ought to keep everyone plenty warm.

Worser
Next up is Countrywide Financial, which yesterday confirmed what many have suspected: Its delinquency rates are skyrocketing.

Specifically, Countrywide said in its monthly update that payments were overdue on 7% of its outstanding loans in December, up two percentage points from the same time last year, and 70 basis points from November.

At least it's just investors who are at risk from a bankruptcy filing, and not us taxpayers. Oh, wait. We are.

Fresh reports say that Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) could make a bid for Countrywide, but with so many questions about Countrywide's portfolio and -- now -- the integrity of its management, a buyout is anything but a sure bet.

Worst
But our winner is Unisys, which yesterday felt the wrath of hedge fund Millbrook Capital Management, which owns 9.9% of the former tech titan's shares outstanding.

According to a letter sent to Unisys management (see page 10) on Jan. 7 and filed with the SEC, Millbrook's partners have felt "tremendous frustration with the seemingly continuous stream of management, operational, and financial missteps that have characterized recent performance."

To remedy the problem, Millbrook requests that Unisys sell its government business, which it believes could fetch $8 to $12 per share as a separate entity. Management's response? Typical: "Unisys is executing a major, multiyear repositioning plan and has made significant progress in enhancing its profitability by refocusing our business, reducing costs, and divesting noncore assets."

That's the quote a "spokesperson" gave to The Wall Street Journal. I'm not buying it. You'll see why as, once again, we go to the cash-flow card:

Trailing 12 Months

2006

2005

2004

 Free Cash Flow

($105.6)

($122.4)

$26.2

$155.3

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

Increased profitability doesn't mean a thing unless it's followed by higher cash flows.

Unisys and its "What? Me worry?" 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.

I'll be back tomorrow with more stock horror stories.


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