(USATODAY.com) - Investors were expecting volatility in 2014, but this is ridiculous.
While the overall stock market remains somewhat tranquil, beneath the quiet surface, some individual stocks are already giving their owners a sickening ride. Thursday was the latest day in a week full of some head-turning big drops in stocks, including consumer electronics seller Best Buy and skin treatment maker Nu Skin.
Shares of the consumer electronics retailer Thursday closed down a bruising $10.74, or 29%, to $26.83, while Nu Skin, a seller of skin care products, was down $30.43, or 26%, to $84.80.
The massive drops in these stocks come as investors have been bracing for a correction, since stocks did so well in 2013. The broad market continues to elude a correction, but volatile shares are already suffering from their own private periods of pain. Just this week, 52 stocks on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq are down 10% or more, says S&P Capital IQ.
These painful and sudden drops are very company-specific, and investors can't glean too much from them in terms of their broader importance. But such rapid declines are a reminder that when the broad stock market is no longer bargain-priced, and valuations have crept up, companies that don't deliver will be dealt with severely.
Investors are watching these big drops with interest because of:
• The tendency to assume the worst. Shares of Nu Skin were punished on reports the company is being investigated by Chinese officials for allegedly operating an illegal pyramid scheme there. The company says in a press release it's launching a business review to make sure employees are properly trained.
• Evidence of investors' low tolerance for disappointment. Best Buy's stock woes were triggered by reports of holiday sales that fell short of what analysts had predicted. The consumer electronics seller reported that sales at stores open at least a year fell 0.8% during the nine-week period ending Jan. 4. Investors were already turning negative on retailers following disappointing news from other retailers and consumer products sellers. Shares of at-home soda maker equipment maker, SodaStream and video game seller GameStop have seen their shares fall 22% and 19% this week on disappointing results.
• Investors' sensitivity to news. Intercept Pharmaceuticals, a developer of a liver treatment, has been whipsawed by investors. Investors first pushed the shares up 515% in the two days ended Jan. 10 on hopes that the drug might be effective. But the stock has fallen 37% this week on concerns of possible side effects.
Such big drops are a reminder of how investors don't have any tolerance when stocks at large are hovering around their long-term average valuations. "Any company that misses in this environment is getting hurt big time," says Peter Cardillo of Rockwell Global Capital. "It's a question of investors not being forgiving."