The stock market was nearly unchanged on Thursday, as five market sectors advanced, and five sectors declined. All three major indexes ended the day nearly precisely where they started, with the S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) losing just two points, or 0.1%, to end at 1,888. Even given this lack of decisive movement, three stocks in the S&P managed to lose major ground: E*Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), and First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR).
E*Trade shares benefited earlier this week from a flurry of publicity surrounding financial journalist Michael Lewis's new book, Flash Boys, which explores the world of high-frequency trading. Calling the stock market "rigged" in a 60 Minutes interview on Sunday, Lewis claims big-time traders with premium connections to market exchanges are able to "front-run" the orders of the little guy, "scalping" a cent here and a cent there, millions upon millions of times. His claims sparked outrage, and E*Trade shares rallied as investors considered how retail brokerages play the right role in the David vs. Goliath story. Having said that, shares lost 6.5% as the allure faded.
Speaking of a flash-in-the-pan, Facebook shares shed 5.2% Thursday. While the social media giant has been able to monetize more and more successfully in the last year, especially through mobile, investors are realizing that the stock still doesn't look cheap. Tech was the worst sector in the stock market today, so shares already had that going against it. On top of that, the company is spending money like it just won the lottery, acquiring messaging app WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion, or 19 times what it paid for popular media-sharing service Instagram. With usage numbers slowly fading in the youth demographic, Facebook faces plenty of risks on the road ahead.
Finally, shares of First Solar tumbled 4.8% today. Again, tech was the market's major laggard, so green tech stocks like First Solar had an uphill battle on Thursday. First Solar, although known primarily as a photovoltaic panel manufacturer, also earns its living by installing the systems it produces. Here, the company is getting notable pushback from a brainchild of Elon Musk, SolarCity. While SolarCity saw sales grow at about 100% per year from 2010 to 2012, First Solar's sales actually started declining last year. There's money to be made in the installation business, as SolarCity is proving, and First Solar is beginning to look like it's missing out on that part of the revolution.
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