The S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) ended modestly higher on Friday, ending the week on a bullish note as the end of the second quarter approaches. Wall Street and Main Street alike are hoping that the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2014 will see higher growth than the first quarter, when the U.S. economy actually contracted at a 2.9% annualized rate. Dollar General (NYSE:DG), VeriSign (NASDAQ:VRSN), and DuPont (NYSE:DD) investors weren't too optimistic about growth today, as those three stocks ended as the worst performers in the entire S&P index. The S&P, for its part, tacked on three points, or 0.2%, to end at 1,960.
Dollar General lost 7.3% today after the company's Chairman and CEO, Richard W. Dreiling, surprised the stock market by announcing his retirement. Investors have plenty of reasons to like Dreiling, 60, who took control of the company at the beginning of 2008. Under his guidance, the dollar store went public in 2009, increased sales by more than 80%, and expanded its store count to more than 11,000 locations. The silver lining is that Dreiling could stay on at Dollar General for nearly another year -- until May 30, 2015 -- as the board searches for a successor.
VeriSign, which offers domain name registry, network intelligence, and other domain name-related services, shed 3.9% on Friday. A downgrade from Wells Fargo is behind today's drop, as the bank lowered its rating from outperform to market perform, noting that overall domain name registrations in the second quarter are trending lower than the company's midpoint expectations. Google's announced entry into the domain name market earlier this week also threatens to hurt VeriSign's business, especially if Google decides to offer domains at steep discounts, or even give them away for free.
Finally, shares of chemicals giant DuPont slumped 3.3% today, giving the stock the ignominious distinction of being the Dow Jones Industrial Average's worst daily performer. The company warned investors late yesterday that it expects full-year 2014 earnings to come in between $4.00 and $4.10 per share, notably less than the $4.20 to $4.45 in per-share operating earnings it previously projected. In an industry that increasingly relies on genetically modified and patented seeds for a leg up on competition, DuPont is still subject to the whimsy of Mother Nature and Mr. Market, and challenging weather and falling corn prices combined to put the company in a tough position to grow substantially this year.
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