This year has shaped up to be an epic year for stocks and stock stories. Though there are many to choose from, here are the five most interesting stock stories on my radar as we welcome in December.
It may seem hard to believe but one of the hottest stocks in the market is a boring, ole mattress company. Tempur Sealy International shares are up more than 30 percent in the past month and less than 1 percent from their 52-week high.
Though the stock is well off it’s April 2012 peak, it has effectively more than doubled from its price one year ago. But watch out: FactSet data show that the 11 analysts who cover the name have a price target $3 below where the stock is now. Plus, did I mention it’s a mattress company?
4) Deckers Outdoors
A great number of very smart, very rational short-sellers can make a cogent case against Deckers, which makes footwear under the Ugg, Teva and other brand names. A great number of very smart, very rational short-sellers have also been very wrong.
The surge in shares of the fuzzy boot maker surely have caused a collective “Ugg” (sorry) among those betting against the company.
(Read more: Nobel Prize winner warns of US stock market bubble)
In the long run, all the stock has done is gone higher. Ten years ago, it was a $6 stock. Before that, below a buck. But the ride has been rough. Three times in the past 10 years the stock has collapsed by more than 60 percent.
3) Pioneer Natural Resources
Was it something he said? Once of the once hottest stocks in the market, oil and gas company Pioneer Natural Resources, has cooled faster than a Siberian winter since we spoke with CEO Scott Sheffield back in October.
While still up more than double the S&P 500 year to date, Pioneer is down 13 percent over the past month. Perhaps traders can predict the weather, because the terrible November storm that swept through Texas hit Pioneer’s production hard.
A Sterne Agee report on Friday said that, while Pioneer likely won’t be the only Permian operator impacted, it may be the first to get hit because it was the first to comment on the storm.
(Read more: Budget or bust: How to avoid empty pockets at 80)
With an average rating of “overweight” and a price target of $228, Wall Street analysts are soon either going to have to loudly come to the defense of Pioneer or start cutting price targets. PS: a shoutout to Brian Kelly, who said to short the stock on CNBC’s “Fast Money” back on October 23.
HP is the Godot of stocks. Everybody who’s been waiting for the “inevitable” drop simply continues to be disappointed. Not only is the stock the best performer in the Dow this year, but it had another huge week last week, up more than 8 percent.
It has now more than doubled over the past 12 months, just got a high profile win by taking over the back-end computing work for the Obamacare web site, and the Financial Times’ widely read Lex column recently called HP’s valuation “superficially cheap,” though only if profits can stabilize.
A big “if” for sure, and no doubt some smart people greatly disagree with any characterization of HP shares as “cheap,” but right now the bulls have gored the bears.
I know. You’re probably getting tired of hearing about JCPenney. There are times I get tired of talking about it. But what can you say about a stock that is both the worst performer in the S&P 500 this year and the best performer in the S&P 500 in November?
Plus, this is the make-or-break month for the retailer. Everybody is watching new/old CEO Mike Ullman’s turnaround plan closely. At least part of the stock’s recent run is on holiday optimism. If Penney can post solid comps in December, watch out to the upside.
(Read more: Investors piled into these equity funds in November)
But if sales bomb, or perhaps simply remain flat, just watch out. I say that for the same reason: Despite Bill Ackman’s high-profile fizzle on the name, FactSet data reveal short interest remains very high.
In fact, the latest data show it is still the highest in the S&P 500, at about 30 percent of shares outstanding. (Note: JCP is being booted from the S&P 500 so that statement will change). This means there could be huge possible moves in either direction depending on the data.
So despite an already incredibly eventful and controversial year, the JCPenney story may not be done yet.\
— By Brian Sullivan