The bulls are running on Wall Street, and stocks that comprise the broadest measure of the large-cap domestic market, the S&P 500, now collectively trade at their highest level in more than five years. Many of the gains we’ve seen of late have come over the past six months, with the S&P posting a total return of 11.9% over the past half year.
That performance is impressive, but what’s not so impressive are the cellar dwellers keeping the index from doing even better.
For investors, holding on to losers while the rest of the market is making multi-year highs is most definitely not a very good feeling, nor is it sound portfolio management. To correct this situation, you need to take action, and that means you need to identify the worst of the worst stocks out there—and then summarily sweep them out of your portfolio.
So, which stocks represent the biggest dogs in the S&P 500 over the past six months?
Here are the dirty dozen sitting at the bottom of the barrel that you need to sell now.
Discount retailer Dollar General (NYSE:DG) is one of three companies in the über-low-cost retail space that share the infamous distinction of dishing out big losses over the past six months.
With a total return that is 13.88% in the red, it’s time to get this shrinking dollar out of your portfolio’s pockets.
The former Wall Street darling has really seen ramped up selling of late, and despite huge revenues and big profits in its most recent quarter, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares have fallen out of favor big time.
Over the past six months, traders have taken a 14.11% bite out of this Apple’s total return.
The chip giant’s market share remains strong, but unfortunately, the Street hasn’t processed that information into any positive returns. In fact, since late-July, Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) shares have failed to boot up, and the result has been a 14.84% decline for those holding this tech bellwether.
Big box electronics retailer Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) has been on a virtual rollercoaster ride over the past six months. Total return on the stock is a plunge of 15.61%, but that includes a year-to-date gain of nearly 30%.
The big surge in the shares has come about on the likelihood the company will go private, and while that may help some investors, most would be best served by getting this bad buy off their books.
The company has been around for a very long time, and it’s achieved great success over much of its lifespan. Now, however, the Street has stopped sending any bullish telegraphs to Western Union (NYSE:WU). The stock’s total return over the past six months is down 18.63%, and that makes it a great candidate to sweep out of your portfolio.
East Coast power-generation firm FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE) took a big hit from Hurricane Sandy, and that hit was reflected in the 19.34% plunge in the stock over the past six months. The company is likely to stage a comeback at some point, as will the stock, but until then the shares are not likely to deliver much power to your portfolio.
Another deep-discount retailer that’s struggled mightily of late is Big Lots (NYSE:BIG). The stock is off 20.90% since late-July, as both revenue and earnings have suffered from the change in consumer shopping habits.
The decline in BIG shares has reversed course over the past three weeks, as the stock is up 8.5% so far in 2013. This could be the beginning of an uptrend in BIG, but that’s not a reason to continue holding the stock.
Yet another discount retailer suffering the wrath of sellers is Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR). Since late July, the stock’s total return is in the red to the tune of 21.11%.
There are not a whole lot of dollars to be made in this stock, so if you own it, now may be a great time to clear it from your portfolio brush and rotate the capital raised from the sale into a stronger performer.
Energy-generation conglomerate Exelon (NYSE:EXC) shares had a very tough six months, sustaining a loss of 21.17%.
Like FirstEnergy, this company has come under pressure from exogenous circumstances, but that doesn’t mean you have to subject your portfolio to the same downside. Sweep this stock out of your portfolio now before the next wave of selling hits.
When a stock suffers a PR nightmare the way Monster Beverage (NASDAQ:MNST) and its energy drinks did a few months back, you are bound to see a lot of selling. That’s precisely what happened to the once high-flying MNST over the past half year, as the stock has crashed 27.36%.
Monster has done well so far in 2013, getting an energy surge of 9.05%, but that’s still not enough added juice to keep me from selling this stock.
The for-profit education sector has come under pressure of late, and there’s no company that’s ahead of this tarnished class more than Apollo Group (NASDAQ:APOL), operators of the University of Phoenix. Some have criticized the school as a diploma mill and a student loan mill. This may be true, but in the past the company also has been a profit mill.
Unfortunately for investors that have held APOL over the past six months, the stock has been a mill of disappointment and declines, with a total return adding up to a very unscholarly negative 30.71%.
Advanced Micro Devices
The biggest loser in the S&P 500 over the past six months is semiconductor chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD). Shares have plunged 34.22% since late-July, and that’s including a recent rebound in the chipmaker of 13.75% in just the first few weeks of 2013.
AMD shares appear to be in at least a short-term uptrend, but that’s all the more reason to get out of the stock now before it experiences another computer error that causes your portfolio to crash.