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 (5 max)

% Change

52-Week Range

Lithia Motors (NYSE:LAD)

$10.03

*

(31.63%)

$11.32-$30.54

Boston Private Financial (NASDAQ:BPFH)

$14.72

**

(26.58%)

$17.06-$30.33

Hertz Global Holding (NYSE:HTZ)

$13.07

**

(9.11%)

$11.71-$27.20

Heelys (NASDAQ:HLYS)

$5.56

*

(8.55%)

$5.52-$38.68

Quest Diagnostics (NYSE:DGX)

$48.31

****

(7.38%)

$47.98-$58.63

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

Naughty?
Well, OK, we can't exactly call these stocks naughty. There are days when five-star winners and newsletter recommendations appear here. Today, for example.

If you're an investor, you'll have plenty of bad days. The trick is to avoid dating -- or, worse, marrying -- your losers. That's why I listen when our 83,000-plus-person-strong Motley Fool CAPS community of stock pickers speaks with a poor rating or a negative pitch. You should, too.

Thus, here is today's list of the worst stocks in the world.

Worse
We begin with Boston Private Financial, which copped to a big increase in reserves for unpaid loans.

The financier, which controls a series of investment managers and banks, says it will provide $11 million to $12 million to cover losses at First Private Bank, a Los Angeles-based affiliate whose $545 million portfolio includes real estate loans in Southern California, which could be some really bad real estate loans.

Most of that payment will hit Boston Private on the bottom line. The company booked just $15 million in net profit last year. Ouch.

Worser
Next up is Quest Diagnostics, which offered worse-than-expected guidance for 2008 and admitted it would need millions more to settle a government investigation into a now-defunct unit.

Actually, make that "hundreds of millions." Quest, an Inside Value pick, increased its reserves by $190 million, to $241 million, and booked a $1.10 per share loss for the year from discontinued operations.

Interestingly, CAPS All-Star pnouri all but predicted the continuing problems in a bearish thesis posted a week ago. Quoting:

Look out below for the stock price of this diagnostic lab. There are many internal problems here, but their worst problem is the business they continue to lose to competitors due to contract shakeups ... The company will need to announce some sort of restructuring for lower sales before they can grow earnings again. Keeping your eye on the ball here, when the initial CEO left in 2003 or so, the stock topped out. I think it's a lesson to investors to find out why executives depart. [Emphasis added.]

I wouldn't call that perfectly prescient, but it's pretty darn close. Well done.

Worst
But our winner is teen shoe sensation Heelys, which waited till after 7 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday to reveal that it's about to lose a key executive. Quoting:

On February 16, 2008, Charles D. Beery gave notice that effective as of February 29, 2008 he would be resigning his position as Heelys, Inc.'s Senior Vice President -- Global Sales.

Whoops.

But maybe this isn't so bad. Heelys, like peers Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX  ) and Skechers (NYSE: SKX  ) , has been suffering from a slowdown in sales growth. That would appear to be Beery's department.

Still, the timing (long after market close) and structure (with almost zero detail) of this non-announcement announcement is troubling. It suggests to me that management is either losing talent it can't afford to lose or that Beery didn't like where the company was headed.

Either way, investors have good reasons to worry.

Heelys and its suddenly short-staffed 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.

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


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