Why Do Investors Hate This Stock?

On reviewing the quarterly results for Clorox (NYSE: CLX  ) in August, I dubbed the company "snore-ox" because its slow growth and dependability don't provide much of a rush for adrenaline-junky investors. Since I happen to think that some of the best investments are also the most boring, I actually meant that as a compliment and lent even more support to the stock a month later when I took a look at its valuation.

And I'm apparently not alone among Fools. Just last week, fellow Fool Andrew Bond gave a run-down of just how sexy he finds this sleepy stock.

But investors are far from convinced. How far? An interesting note from The Wall Street Journal's MarketBeat blog gave a view of stocks at 52-week highs in short interest. Here's a look at a handful of the stocks that made the list:

Rank

Company

Short Interest

1

Ciena (Nasdaq: CIEN  )

31.1%

2

St. Joe (NYSE: JOE  )

25.5%

5

InterDigital (Nasdaq: IDCC  )

16.3%

18

Clorox

3.9%

24

Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  )

1%

Source: The Wall Street Journal. Short interest = The percentage of outstanding shares on loan as of Jan. 11.

I find it really interesting that Clorox would even make this list. Ciena has been under heat thanks to hefty losses and the gamble that it made on Nortel's assets. St. Joe has found itself in between two investing greats -- David Einhorn and Bruce Berkowitz -- as Einhorn tries to convince the investing world that the company's property portfolio isn't worth nearly as much as St. Joe claims it is. Given InterDigital's choppy historical results, there may be concerns that the near-100% run over the past year isn't sustainable. And of course Pfizer, like many other big pharma companies, is in need of a ship-righting as patents expire for blockbuster drugs.

But Clorox? I'm a little stumped. Analyst growth estimates of 9.2% could prove a bit optimistic, but they're toward the low end of the estimates for similar consumer-branded-goods companies like Proctor & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) (9.1%) and Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL  ) (10.3%). Private-label goods may also prove challenging in years ahead, but again, that's a problem facing the whole sector and Clorox's direct competitors aren't showing up among the heavily shorted stocks.

Could this be opportunity knocking? The stock is trading at 16 times its current fiscal year (which ends in June) earnings estimates and it pays a 3.4% dividend. The simple fact that so much pessimism seems to have built up makes me want to keep an eye on Clorox. A well-loved stock doesn't have to work hard to disappoint its investors, but one that's been kicked to the gutter often doesn't have to do much to get the market excited.

Want to keep track of what's going on at Clorox? Add the stock to your Foolish watchlist.

Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. InterDigital is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Clorox and Procter & Gamble are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. The Fool owns shares of and has written covered calls on Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter @KoppTheFool or on his RSS feed. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers dividends over a sharp stock in the eye.


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