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Stock Watch


5 Stocks to Sell Now

Kathy Kristof

It's tough to know when to unload a loser, especially if you’ve ridden it down from a lofty perch and now hope it has sunk so low that it just has to bounce back.



Investors would be wise to cut their losses on the five stocks listed below. It looks as if it will take a long time for them to recover, if they recover at all.

SEE ALSO: Why I Sell Stocks Slowly

1. Alpha Natural Resources (symbol ANR, $8) is one of the nation's biggest coal companies. That would seem to be a good thing because coal is part of the conversation about making America energy-independent. But ANR's future isn't rosy. For starters, a glut of natural gas is reducing demand for coal. Moreover, after examining ANR's debt situation, GMI Ratings, a New York City investment analysis firm, added the Bristol, Va., mining company to its "financial distress" list in October. Why? The company is heavily indebted, hiking its borrowing costs, but it is still not raising the capital it needs. ANR's stock, $67 in January 2011, is now in single-digit territory (prices are as of November 7). Can it get worse? Projecting sales declines, GMI thinks the company may have to file for bankruptcy protection.

2. Apollo Group (APOL, $20), the parent company of the University of Phoenix, is retrenching. In the wake of ongoing investigations into for-profit colleges, Apollo recently reported that student enrollment fell 14% in the fiscal year that ended August 31. The Phoenix-based company, which has been selling operations and closing campuses, said profits fell 20% in the latest fiscal year. Apollo projects further revenue declines in the current fiscal year, an indication of diminishing demand for its programs, says S&P Capital IQ analyst Michael Jaffe. He advises selling the stock.

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3. Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG, $273) was one of the stock market's darlings, quintupling in price after it broke off from parent McDonald's in 2006. But the stock, which hit a record high of $442 in April, has hit the skids lately because earnings growth has slowed. Experts see more headwinds from intensifying competition from Taco Bell. Even though the stock has sunk 38% from its high, it still sells at a lofty 26 times estimated 2013 earnings and is likely to fall further. (Chipotle is also on columnist Andy Feinberg's sell list.)

4. Exelon (EXC, $31) yields a mouthwatering 6.7%, but shares of the Chicago-based utility holding company are in decline because profits are under pressure. Analysts believe Exelon's earnings will continue to slide, suggesting that the stock, which sells for 12 times estimated 2013 earnings, is overvalued. Plus, Exelon may cut its dividend.

5. Once a technology darling, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, $14) has been in turmoil for the past three years. Its latest chief executive, Meg Whitman, has been warning analysts that it will take a long time -- "longer than anyone would like" -- to turn the company around. Among other things, the Palo Alto, Cal., firm has been hurt by sagging sales of personal computers. UBS analyst Steven Milunovich says HP is in a "slow bleed" and recommends selling the shares.


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