Today's 3 Worst Stocks in the S&P 500

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.

The stock market closed higher for a fourth straight day today, as the new chairman of the Federal Reserve reassured investors and Congress made progress on extending the debt ceiling once again. Although it took the threat of an imminent snowstorm to force Congress' hand, the House of Representatives is expected to take steps to raise the U.S. debt ceiling without conditions until March 2015. The S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) added 19 points, or 1.1%, to end at 1,819 Tuesday.

While the overwhelmingly bullish market sent seven out of 10 stocks higher and boosted every single sector, that doesn't mean the day was without its losers. WPX Energy (NYSE: WPX  ) ended as the S&P's single worst stock of the day, losing 10% as it warned shareholders about what the company expects will be dreary fourth quarter results. WPX Energy provides oil and natural gas, and the $3.4 billion company announced its fourth quarter would feel the impact of a $1.4 billion impairment charge due to lower natural gas prices. Investors get to survey the extent of the damage when the Oklahoma-based company reports earnings -- or lack thereof -- on Feb. 27. 

Shares of animal health pharmaceutical company Zoetis (NYSE: ZTS  ) also took a hit today, stumbling 6.5% as its forward guidance spooked investors. Zoetis proved yet again that people really, really, love their animals last quarter, as net income more than tripled from the same quarter one year before. Of course, Zoetis' business is mainly derived from livestock, so saying that people "love their animals" takes a more morbid meaning in that context. From a business perspective, the bottom line is that growth is slowing, with earnings-per-share growth slowing back down to a single-digit pace. 

Lastly, shares of consumer goods giant ConAgra Foods (NYSE: CAG  ) slid 6.3% today, as net income projections also disappointed investors. Pressured margins, a tougher outlook for the Consumer Foods division, and a weak potato crop were all cited as reasons behind ConAgra's poor guidance. Now, ConAgra products aren't going anywhere, and the stock -- which pays a 3.2% dividend -- should still be a solid long-term investment for patient shareholders. Wall Street may get burned for its short-term thinking on this one; I don't think one bad crop report or one missed earnings projection will materially hurt this steady performer in the years to come.

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