With headlines still filled with stories about the looming fiscal cliff the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 106 points higher yesterday, or almost 1%, as the president and congress inched closer to an agreement. Considering how far down the Dow started off the day it (down 113 points) it was a big 230 point rally for the index.

The big winner on the Dow was financials like Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) or JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) as you might suspect since they've typically moved in tandem with talks of the cliff. Rather it was Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), which jumped 3%, after claiming it's uncovered new evidence of fraud in its acquisition of Autonomy.

Although it's not often companies cheer the fact that they were rubes, H-P needs something to hang its hat on since the former Autonomy management team has been very forceful in denying the allegations against them.

Yet there were even great fools on the day, with the three companies below managing to underperform the indexes and the hi-tech yokel.


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National Bank of Greece (OTC:NBG.DL)


U.S. Silica Holdings (NYSE:SLCA)


Now don't go running over the cliff with them like a bunch of lemmings: It could just be a temporary situation. Let's first see whether they had good reason to fall as panic-fueled routs can sometimes lead to excellent buying opportunities.

Still a big deal?
There was no real news to account for fabless semiconductor specialist Mellanox Technologies' decline yesterday. It had enjoyed a big run up through the summer as rumors swirled that both IBM (NYSE:IBM) or Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) found its business so compelling in their quest to lead in the growing "big data" movement, that they'd swoop in and acquire it. Apparently as no bids have been forthcoming, the shares have been steadily dropping and now find themselves more than 36% below their 52-week high.

With pressure coming from Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), which bought QLogic's (NASDAQ:QLGC) InfiniBand switched fabric communications portfolio earlier this year, Mellanox may find there are fewer takers than previously believed. Let me know in the comments section below if you think Mellanox Technologies can still be a big deal in big data.

Don't bank on it
Greek bank stocks generally plunged yesterday as the country's financial woes continue to strangle the sector. National Bank of Greece is most exposed to these shocks and fears that Greece's debt buyback plan would eviscerate the banks' capital helped send them lower.

NBG had also improved through the summer as Europe worked to get a fix in place for the worst members of the community. Its shares more than doubled until worries arose that Greece might in fact default on its debt or exit the euro. The bank's stock plummeted 20% in one day and has been bouncing around since, more like the death throes of its country's economy and likely its own fate as well.

I've had a long running underperform rating on National Bank of Greece on Motley Fool CAPS, the 180,000-member-driven investor community that translates informed opinion into stock ratings of one to five stars. The bank's two-star rating suggests most members don't see much of a future for it either and with its stock down 63% since I first weighed in on it last year compared to a 17% rise in the S&P 500, I don't see any catalyst for change that would have me switch my rating on it.

Propping up value
It would appear silica manufacturer U.S. Silica is stealing market share from CARBO Ceramics (NYSE:CRR) in the oil and gas industry proppant market. While the later makes specialized ceramic beads to prop open the hydraulic fractures drillers create to release the oil and gas trapped in or beneath rock formations, U.S. Silica sells lower cost sand. With an industry that's reeling from historic low prices, it may be the value proposition that's setting it apart.

The silica maker sold 769 tons of proppant last quarter, up 68% from 2011, generating a 166% increase in segment revenues, which rose to $64 million. CARBO, on the other hand, sold 385 million pounds of ceramic proppant, down 3% from last year, as revenues fell 10% to $151 million.

Considering conditions in the natural gas market and with rising opposition to fracking generally, it seems difficult to expect either player to see any gains going forward and may in part explain yesterday's tumble. Let me know below if you think U.S. Silica has a fractured future.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.