Generally positive economic data, in combination with a blowout quarter from social networking giant Facebook, sent most stocks higher Thursday. Although jobless claims rose last week, the potentially negative repercussions were muted by a third consecutive month of domestic durable goods orders. The S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) , reinvigorated after two consecutive days of losses, added four points, or 0.3%, to close at 1,690. But no matter what happens to durable goods orders, there will always be a few bad apples in the market, and three stocks in particular stood out today as rotten.
The biggest decliner in the entire S&P 500, PulteGroup (NYSE: PHM ) , shed 10.3%, as homebuilders fell dramatically. It's odd: The company reported quarterly earnings today, doubling profits from the same period a year ago. So what's the catch? Well, orders fell, but the main reason behind the brutal fall was simply the result of high expectations. Analysts wanted more than 100% earnings growth. Analysts are hard to please sometimes.
Oil and gas explorer Newfield Exploration (NYSE: NFX ) lost 6.3% Thursday after its quarterly earnings also failed to impress investors. In sharp contrast to PulteGroup, however, profits actually fell by nearly 40% in the quarter due to lower gas volumes. Newfield's profitability has fluctuated wildly over the years: The company lost $542 million in 2009, then made more than $1 billion in the combined years of 2010 and 2011, only to lose nearly $1.2 billion in 2012. It's not a very predictable business, and shareholders suffered for that today.
Digital storage company Western Digital (NASDAQ: WDC ) rounds out today's list of laggards, tumbling 5.9% after its net income fell 44% in the fiscal fourth quarter. Western Digital's fall from grace exemplifies the declining PC market, as Western Digital's hard drives become less and less relevant in an era of shifting consumer tastes. Most mobile devices use chips to store data instead of the antiquated hard drive, a fact evidenced by a 22% revenue slump in the recent quarter.
Regardless of who you are, the best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report, "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich," names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of. Click here now to keep reading.