Continuing a steady climb that began nearly four years ago in March 2009, the S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) rose 0.9 points, or 0.06%, to close at 1,520 Wednesday. Though today's gains were modest, the index has more than doubled since the lows of four years ago. That said, the mere inclusion of a company's stock in the S&P 500 doesn't guarantee good returns, and that fact was underlined by the miserable performance of today's three biggest laggards.

Shares of Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE:CLF) posted an epic day today, and not in a good way. The aptly named Cliffs shares dropped like rocks, falling 20% in a textbook example of why companies should not cut their dividend and post quarterly losses. It wasn't just the dramatically slashed payout, which was reduced by 76%, but the fact that the company recently raised and defended its dividend that caused investors to sell in a frenzy.

In another case of quarterly earnings coming back to bite shareholders, Hospira's (NYSE:HSP) report drove the stock down 6.6%, even after beating top- and bottom-line estimates. The health-care stock plummeted, however, because its guidance for the 2013 fiscal year was below what Wall Street expected. As the current value of a stock hinges on the expectations for future success, issuing disappointing projections about the future of your company is a bad place to begin. 

Frontier Communications (NASDAQ:FTR), which is set to report earnings next Thursday, fell 3.2%. Though there wasn't a solid reason behinds today's stumble, the company hasn't exactly outperformed in the last few years. While the S&P was busy rallying to within 3% of all-time highs, Frontier's stock has dropped more than 40% in the last three years alone. 

Fool contributor John Divine has no position in any stocks mentioned, and neither does The Motley Fool. You can follow John on Twitter @divinebizkid and on Motley Fool CAPS @TMFDivine.

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