Today’s 3 Worst Stocks in the S&P 500

Cigna Corp, VeriSign, and Windstream Holdings all slump into the weekend on Friday

Feb 7, 2014 at 7:19PM

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Stocks posted another day of big gains Friday, rallying for a second straight day in the face of subpar job creation in January. Although the Labor Department reported payroll growth that fell significantly short of expectations, this failure, ironically enough, helped send markets higher. Only Wall Street's fuzzy logic could've produced these gains, which were stoked by hopes that the Federal Reserve would slow the pace of its quantitative easing in the face of such an obviously impaired labor market. With that in mind, S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) added 23 points, or 1.3%, to end at 1797.

A rising tide, however, never truly lifts all boats in the stock market, and shares of Cigna Corp (NYSE:CI) were a prime example of this fabled phrase's irrelevance here, as the stock slumped 9.3% today. Cigna, a health-care insurance provider, reported sales that beat estimates, but its earnings miss and disappointing forecast were enough to send shareholders to the exits Friday. Cigna's projected earnings per share in 2014 of between $6.80 and $7.20 fell well short of the $7.29 per share in earnings that analysts were hoping for.

Shares of Internet registry company VeriSign, (NASDAQ:VRSN) also slumped into the weekend, losing 4.9% today. VeriSign's slip was due to the eerie feeling Wall Street's getting that the company's profit margins are peaking. Taking a step back, profit margins like VeriSign's don't often last for too long anyway, so it was only a matter of time before the day of reckoning came. Gross margin currently exceeds 80%, meaning that for every $1 of sales, VeriSign is taking away $0.80 in gross profits. Not such a bad industry! But nothing lasts forever, after all, especially not amazing margins in a free market.

Lastly, shares of Windstream Holdings, (NASDAQ:WIN) fell 1.1% today, as investors' appetites for risk didn't mix with this telecom services stock. Telecom was the worst-performing sector in the entire market today, and Windstream, which pays a whopping 13.4% dividend, felt the pain as other sectors flourished. Though there wasn't much company-specific news today, the stock's unpopularity is consistent with some tried-and-true market behaviors that we tend to see time and time again. Companies that pay high dividends often underperform more growth-oriented stocks when the market rallies, because income and value investing become more emotionally alluring during downturns and bear markets.

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John Divine has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @divinebizkid and on Motley Fool CAPS @TMFDivine.

The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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