Even though chemical giant DuPont (NYSE:DD) had a great run in the '80s and '90s, the stock has spent the last five years going nowhere fast -- except last year, when it mostly went down. Fairly or unfairly, when people think about boring, sleepy, cyclical companies, DuPont often gets mentioned.

Well, this sleepy company fell out of bed Wednesday morning, when it announced that earnings for the fourth quarter were going to come in a little light. And by a "little," I mean a lot -- the company now expects $0.10 a share in earnings, versus prior guidance of $0.20 to $0.25 and an average analyst estimate of $0.24. It shouldn't surprise you that the stock was trading down about 2.5% at midmorning in response.

DuPont split the blame two ways. First, about half of the shortfall seems to be coming from greater-than-expected costs associated with the hurricanes -- and the resulting problems with power, logistics, and supplies. As for the other half, the company also has seen lower sales and higher costs in the crop-protection chemicals (that's herbicides and pesticides to you and me), performance coatings, and surfaces businesses.

To its partial credit, though, management at least seemed willing to take the blame for the sales shortfall and the flubbed estimate of the hurricane impacts. I know that may not seem like much, but when you listen to a parade of company managers dodge the blame, it's a refreshing change to hear a "mea culpa."

Like fellow Dow disappointer Alcoa (NYSE:AA), DuPont seems to be stuck with higher costs that more than exceed the benefits of higher prices. One of the big questions now, though, is how much of DuPont's troubles are specific to the company alone -- something we probably won't get a good handle on until we see reports from the likes of BASF (NYSE:BF) and Motley Fool Income Investor pick Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW). Either way, I just don't see a compelling argument for owning DuPont today.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).