Giving up yesterday's gains amid fear over potential easing in the Federal Reserve's bond-buying program, the S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) fell 11 points, or 0.7%, to finish at 1,648. Even after the decline, the index remains near all-time highs, having gained nearly 17% already this year. Quite unable to match that bullishness are three of the S&P's biggest laggards today.
Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF ) slipped 5.8% Wednesday, as the materials company copes with word from the International Monetary Fund that China's growth is due for further deceleration. China, as the world's second-largest economy, represents a massive market for energy and commodities companies like Cliffs to tap into. While coal continues to fall out of favor, iron ore prices are also off about 30% from their highs -- not exactly the dynamics you want to see from a company hawking coal and iron ore.
As for J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) , the company is in the initial stages of a potential turnaround; at least investors hope that's the case. What doesn't help the company revamp its image and attract lost customers back to stores is brand-new controversy surrounding a tea kettle that some say looks vaguely like Adolf Hitler on a billboard in California. The company has removed the sign, but shares still slumped 4.3%, falling for the fourth time in five days.
Lastly, forest-products company Weyerhaeuser (NYSE: WY ) fell 4% today. Similar to the issues facing Cliffs, Weyerhaeuser is dealing with issues outside the locus of its control: namely, the price of lumber, down 35% from its highs this year. If there's something working in the company's favor, however, it's the strong recovery in the housing market, which saw prices rise in March more than they have in the past seven years.
Cliffs Natural Resources has grown from a domestic iron ore producer into an international player in both the iron ore and metallurgical coal markets. It has also underwhelmed investors lately, especially after its dramatic 76% dividend cut in February. However, it could now be looked at as a possible value play due to several factors that are likely to remain advantageous for Cliffs' management. For details on these advantages and more, click here now to check out The Motley Fool's premium research report on the company.