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LONDON -- The FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE ) is holding steady today, up just 11 points to 6,115 as of 8:20 a.m. EST after a cracking start to 2013 took it to a new 52-week high of 6,134 -- a long way from its low point for the year of 5,230 points.
It seems to be chiefly the mining sector holding the index back today, coupled with faltering performances of Asian stock markets. But while the index of top U.K. stocks is buoyant, the same can't be said for all of the constituents of the various indexes. Here are three companies at rock bottom.
Stobart (LSE: STOB )
Stobart Group shares have been having a torrid time, plunging to a low of 87 pence today. The shares had been recovering from the depths of 2009, reaching as high as 162 pence by April 2010, but since then we've seen a slow but steady slide.
In terms of fundamentals, the company doesn't look as bad as the share price suggests. Profits have remained reasonably stable over the past few years, though there is a drop in earnings of about 10% forecast for the year to February 2013. But there's strong growth forecast for the next two years, and analysts are anticipating a dividend yield of nearly 6%. There's some debt to watch out for, though, amounting to about 50% of the company's 330 million pound market cap.
Gem Diamonds (LSE: GEMD )
The Gem Diamonds share price opened today at 142.5 pence, just a fraction up on its 52-week low of 141.75 pence, but it has picked up a few pennies to reach 147 pence at the time of writing. That's a drop of 55% since its 52-week high of 317 pence set in March last year.
The problem is a collapse in earnings expected for the year just ended in December: After a pre-tax profit of 247 million pounds for the previous year, analysts are expecting so see just 7.7 million pounds for 2012. Forecasts for 2013 see that doubling, but that still puts the shares on a price-to-earnings ratio of 12.5, and it's a pretty risky business to predict.
Victoria Oil & Gas (LSE: VOG )
Shares in Victoria Oil & Gas hit a low of just 1.98 pence yesterday before recovering (if you could call it that) to close at 2 pence, where they've remained today. The shares have been as high as 5 pence over the past year, and back in 2008 they were up as high as 25 pence.
The company has been blighted with losses over the past few years, and over the past year performance at its gas business in Cameroon has been disappointing. But there's a small profit forecast for this year, and 2014 forecasts drop the P/E as low as 5.8.
Finally, how does Britain's ace investor Neil Woodford avoid share price falls? He goes for a strategy of buying solid blue-chip shares paying dependable long-term dividends. And in doing so, he has built a record of beating the FTSE for nine straight years. If you want to see how Woodford manages to beat the market, the free Motley Fool report "8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor" takes a look at some of his key holdings. To get your copy, click here while it's still available.