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The Biggest Stock Slipups of 2013

By Tamara Walsh – Jan 2, 2014 at 9:49AM

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2013 was a winning year for the stock market. However, it wasn't without a bit of drama. Here is a look at three of the year's biggest stock slipups.

The market locked in huge gains in 2013. In fact, as fellow Fool Morgan Housel points out, 2013 was the seventh-best year for stocks in the past 50 years. Some of the highfliers included Tesla Motors, the electric-car upstart that took the market by storm, and Rite Aid, the pharmacy stock that was left for dead last year. Tesla has surged 346% year-to-date, while shares of Rite Aid are close behind, having gained 323% on the year.

Of course, the market rally wasn't immune to drama in 2013. From failed turnarounds to scandalous transparency issues, here are three of this year's biggest stock slipups and the companies that suffered as a result.

2 turnarounds gone wrong
As far as turnaround strategies are concerned, J.C. Penney (JCPN.Q) is one of this year's biggest losers. Shares of J.C. Penney have plummeted more than 54% this year because of a pile-on of missteps. The struggling retailer kicked off 2013 with a promising new CEO at the helm and plans to restore the business. Unfortunately, Ron Johnson's decisions to give the J.C. Penney logo a facelift and kill coupons at the department store chain ended up doing more harm than good.

After ditching coupons, J.C. Penney suffered a 31.7% decline in same-store sales. As a result, the retailer's net loss grew more than 600% to $552 million for the company's fourth quarter this year. In April, J.C. Penney's board gave Johnson the boot. However, the damage was done. The company has lost nearly a billion in the last 12 months. Moreover, looking to the year ahead, J.C. Penney will spend much of 2014 undoing what was done in 2013.

BlackBerry (BB -2.62%) was another victim of a turnaround nightmare this year. Similar to JCP, the mobile device maker had wrongly pinned its turnaround hopes on a new CEO, Thorsten Heins, at the start of 2013. As we now know, Heins was not the change that BlackBerry needed. In fact, shortly after stepping into his new role, Heins went on record saying, "no drastic change was needed" at BlackBerry.

Instead, the mobile device maker continued to do more of the same. As a result, BlackBerry continued to bleed market share while competitors such as Apple gained the upper hand. The company's share of the U.S. smartphone market was already at a record low of 15.2% last year. Today, that figure is even more devastating, as BlackBerry's market share has fallen below 1% amid a banner year for the broader market. Moreover, shares of BlackBerry have lost nearly 39% of their value year to date, to where they currently trade at around $7 apiece. That's a decline of more than 95% from the stock's high of $148.13 just five years ago. Ultimately, if BlackBerry wants a real chance at a comeback in 2014, it needs to get back to its roots and start innovating.

Sheer scandal
That brings us to my third favorite stock slipup of 2013: lululemon athletica (LULU -1.03%) and the case of the see-through yoga pants. Lululemon started the year in downward dog, after the yoga apparel maker was forced to recall more than 17% of its signature luon pants from store shelves for being too sheer. Lululemon lost as much as $67 million in revenue this year because of the recall.

Nevertheless, Lululemon's founder Chip Wilson really made the company scandal-worthy in 2013 for his public remarks about women's bodies in yoga pants.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Lululemon's transparency issues got even worse when the company's CEO, Christine Day, surprised investors with news that she would be leaving the company for "personal reasons." This left Lululemon with no clear leadership or direction for much of the second half of 2013. Shares of Lululemon finished the year having lost more than 22% of their value. The stock currently trades around $59 a pop.

The takeaway here for investors is that even solid companies run into mishaps now and then. Of course, 2014 won't be any different. For investors, the trick is to keep an eye on such flubs and failures to make sure the fundamentals of the business haven't changed.   

Fool contributor Tamara Rutter owns shares of Lululemon Athletica and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Lululemon Athletica and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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