The 3 most exciting stocks of 2013
In an usually dramatic year for the market, Herbalife, Tesla Motors and J.C. Penney stood out.
By Dan Burrows
True, there's no shortage of exciting stock stories this year. That's what happens when the market has an amazing run, adding 25% so far in 2013.
For example, we had amazing turnarounds from Netflix (NFLX) and Best Buy (BBY) this year, both of which helped lead the broader market higher. Then, of course, there's Facebook (FB). After languishing for much of the year, FB took off in the fall, and now it's sitting on a doubler.
But when it comes to share performance, billionaire egos, innovation and conflict, you can't beat HLF, TSLA or JCP for an almost operatic 2013. Read on to see why:
YTD Performance: +351%
52-Week High: $194.50
52-Week Low: $32.11
Tesla Motors doesn't just generate excitement from its state-of-the-art electric cars -- TSLA has been a melodrama in and of itself this year.
In another war between longs and shorts, the longs might have the upper hand for now -- but some epic volatility in TSLA gave the shorts plenty of wins along the way, especially over the last couple of months.
Among the many headwinds and tailwinds for Tesla stock this year: Consumer Reports called it the best car the magazine has ever driven; a bad review in The New York Times cost Tesla an estimated $100 million in sales; and -- most damaging -- three Tesla Model S sedans caught fire.
In the meantime, Elon Musk is notching or being shortlisted for CEO-of-the-year honors in the financial press, and Tesla Motors isn't even his first passion. (That would be SpaceX, Musk's privately held rocket company.)
Through it all, TSLA stock has more than quadrupled this year, and yet it's still limping into the end 2013. Indeed, TSLA was up more than 500% for the year less than two months ago, but then those cars caught fire. Tesla's stock has lost more than 20% ever since.
YTD Performance: +132%
52-Week High: $78.50
52-Week Low: $24.24
There's nothing quite like a battle of billionaires -- and their egos -- to make for a great stock story, and Herbalife has it all.
Technically, this story began at the end of last year when billionaire Bill Ackman accused HLF of being a pyramid scheme. His Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund took a huge short position, betting that the Federal Trade commission would shut Herbalife down.
Almost immediately, other billionaires smelling blood in the water (or with old scores to settle) took long positions in Herbalife. Carl Icahn, Dan Loeb and George Soros were just some of the billionaire hedge fund operators squeezing Ackman's short position for both fun and profit.
In the meantime, a top HLF salesman was found dead in an apparent suicide, Icahn attained two seats on the Herbalife board, the FTC sat on its hands, and a re-audit of Herbalife's books showed nothing amiss.
And yet through all the volatility, punching and counter-punching, HLF more than doubled for the year-to-date, costing Ackman $500 million -- and counting.
YTD Performance: -58%
52-Week High: $23.10
52-Week Low: $6.24
J.C. Penney has been one of the most exciting stories of the year, but for all the wrong reasons: JCP is off nearly 60% as the troubled retailer struggles to undo all the damage from its predecessor CEO.
Interestingly, JCP also bears the mark of Bill Ackman. He was the driving force to bring in former CEO Ron Johnson. The former Target (TGT) and Apple (AAPL) executive couldn’t have screwed up JCP more if he tried.
Johnson was fired in April, but JCP stock has been taking on water faster than his replacement can bail it out. (Ackman unloaded his stake in JCP stock for a $500 million loss.)
It's been a fascinating, if depressing, story. JCP was the worst-performing stock in the S&P 500 (that is, until JCP was booted from the S&P 500 in November), blowing past a 13-year low along the way. J.C. Penney might rise from the ashes in 2014 -- or disappear altogether.
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As of this writing, Dan Burrows did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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The solid report comes a month after the retailer closed all of its Canadian operations.
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