Today's 3 Worst Stocks

No matter the market, there will always be losers -- a few lagging disappointments holding back a Wall Street rally. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) may have ended the day flat, but there were more than enough downtrodden stocks today to make investors pull their hair out in frustration. Here are the three worst stocks today that you need to know about -- from tech to materials, these stocks put a dent in Wall Street's Thursday.

Dips, dives, and drops
Materials and mining firm Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF  ) ranked as one of yesterday's three top losers, and it's back up to bat today. Shares of the company fell 3.2% a day after falling the same amount on Wednesday. Cliffs announced today that it will take a $2 billion charge  in its fourth-quarter numbers, the largest of which is a charge of around $1 billion for its 2011 purchase of Consolidated Thompson Iron Mines for just over $5 billion.

While analysts pointed out that the charge shouldn't come as a surprise, given a delay in expanding a Thompson's Bloom Lake mine, it's still a hefty financial hit.

Don't go very far, because we don't even have to leave metals companies to find another big loser on the day. U.S. Steel (NYSE: X  ) shares fell 3% today, the latest line of hits in what's become an ugly start to the year for this century-old company. With little news out, investors are probably skittish about U.S. Steel's impending earnings release next Tuesday. The company already warned late last year that the global economic slowdown, coupled with lagging demand in China's infrastructure market, will negatively affect fourth-quarter results. U.S. Steel investors now have to hope the American housing rebound and Chinese economic growth manage to stave off any further declines.

Finally, we get to the No. 1 loser on the S&P 500 today: With shares down 12.4%, it's none other than the company everyone has been panicking about today -- Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) .

Apple's ignominious honor comes after the company actually reported decent quarterly results. iPhone and iPad sales both rose significantly year over year for the fourth quarter, and the company's Chinese business -- its "Greater China" segment -- is roaring with a full head of steam. That's not enough to appease Wall Street expectations, however, and investors have sold in droves today.

With such a good business falling so steeply in one day, however, perhaps it's a sign for opportunistic investors looking for a dip to pull the trigger in buying -- rather than selling on a retreat and following the herd. Even the biggest losers can make you money, after all.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded, with more than 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple and what opportunities are left for the company (and, more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.


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