$1M crushed to less than $55,000 by 3 stocks

Matt Krantz

What's the best way to end up with $54,000 in the stock market? Start with a million.

That's a joke, but nothing's funny for investors who put big money in the wrong places during this raging bull market. With stocks hitting new highs daily, it's easy to forget that being in the right place, the stock market, but in the wrong stock spells disaster.

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images

Just ask any unlucky investors who would have put $1 million in one of these three stocks in the current broad Standard & Poor's 1500 index, including First Bancorp, American International Group or Forest Oil, at the market's last bull market top on Oct. 9, 2007. These investors would have seen the value of their investments plummet to $54,000 or less. Had the same investor put $1 million in the , that money would be worth $1.2 million.

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The worst performer of the group is First Bancorp, a bank holding company for Firstbank Puerto Rico. Investors with an extra million bucks sitting around and feeling bullish about the region could have bought 6,667 shares at $149.99 a share. That would have proven a disastrous move. Those 6,667 shares would now be worth $36,201.

The best S&P stocks since the financial crisis
The best S&P stocks since the financial crisis

Certainly, most investors with that kind of money would likely known better to not put so much cash on one of these stocks. Most professionals know, too, to cut their losses before they get this big. And the odds of having this much bad fortune might be as unlikely as turning $25,000 into a million by picking one of these right stocks.

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And while these three stocks were the most severe declines, there's just the most extreme examples of some disappointing performances from the last bull market high. Below are the S&P 1500 stocks that are down the most, 85% or more, from the former bull market high on Oct. 9, 2007:

S&P 1500 stocks down 85% or more from 2007 high

CompanySymbolCh. % from 10/9/07
First BancorpFBP-96.40%
American InternationalAIG-96.10%
Forest OilFST-94.60%
Arch CoalACI-89.60%
Synovus FinancialSNV-87.70%
J.C. PenneyJCP-87.10%
AK SteelAKS-86.90%
United CommunityUCBI-85.60%
ITT EducationalESI-85.30%
E-Trade FinancialETFC-85.00%

Source: S&P Capital IQ, USA Today research