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Why Ballard Power Systems, Herbalife, and Intercept Pharmaceuticals Tumbled Today

By Dan Caplinger – Mar 17, 2014 at 8:30PM

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A lack of any negative surprises from the Crimean region sent stock markets soaring, but these three stocks didn't join in the rally Monday. Find out what sent these stocks slumping today.

On Monday, investors were generally pleased after the weekend's events between Ukraine and Russia turned out not to be as bad as some had feared last Friday. Yet even though the Dow, S&P 500, and other major stock market measures rose about 1% today, investors in Ballard Power Systems (BLDP -2.23%), Herbalife (HLF), and Intercept Pharmaceuticals (ICPT -1.68%) weren't so lucky, suffering substantial losses today.

Ballard Power Systems dropped 9% on a bad day for fuel-cell stocks generally, as peers Plug Power (PLUG -2.26%) and FuelCell Energy (FCEL -2.45%) declined 3% and 7% respectively. Skeptics have started raising the question of whether fuel-cell stocks truly have the growth potential that their recent share-price performance suggests, and one problem that Ballard and its industry counterparts face is that even though their technology is in the spotlight right now, trends among alternative energy producers tend to run hot and cold over time, suggesting that now could be a bad time to get into the space. For Ballard, one institutional investor might well have come to that conclusion, as major investor Anglo American Platinum converted a promissory note into shares last Friday. The move will make it easier for Anglo American to sell its stake in the fuel-cell company, adding one more investor to the list of those who think that the sector has come too far too fast.

Herbalife declined 8%, adding to its 10% drop last week. The controversy over an investigation into the multi-level marketing company's business practices turned political Monday, as the Republican opponent of the Massachusetts Senate member who called for regulators to investigate Herbalife filed an ethics complaint. The allegations point to donations from Bill Ackman's Pershing Square hedge fund to political action committees that support Senate campaigns, and with Ackman having publicly taken a short position in the stock, he benefited from the downward move after the announcement of the investigation. What's increasingly clear, though, is that the investigation likely won't go away anytime soon, and so Herbalife will have potential trouble hanging over its head for the foreseeable future.

Intercept Pharmaceuticals plunged $55 per share, or 12%, today despite the biotech reporting narrower losses than year-ago levels. The company released some fairly encouraging study results that indicated that its obeticholic acid drug led to reduced levels of adverse serum alkaline phosphatase, giving Intercept more ammunition for filing for FDA approval of the drug for use against a liver disease called primary biliary cirrhosis. But with other results pointing to possible cardiovascular side effects for patients suffering from another liver disease, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, investors are clearly nervous that the FDA might not approve the drug or at least require further trials to demonstrate the drug's safety.

Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has options on Herbalife. We Fools don't 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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