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Don't Be Tempted by Penny-Stock Portfolio

Small-cap stocks are sometimes considered high-growth opportunities, but investors should be wary of this risky group.

The worsening macroeconomic picture has made life hell for some small-cap companies, forcing several out of compliance with listing requirements by the New York Stock Exchange. Last year, 54 companies were delisted from the Big Board for falling out of compliance, the worst year for NYSE expulsions since 2002. More than half of those suspensions occurred in the last three months of the year.

According to Scott Peterson, managing director of communications with NYSE Regulation, 29 of the 54 delistings in 2008 came because the average market capitalization of those companies fell below the $25-million threshold the NYSE has in place. An additional seven companies were suspended due to bankruptcy, the highest total since 2003, Peterson said.

With five companies already kicked off in the first month of the year, 2009 is off to an inauspicious start. Among those companies cast out of the NYSE are Nortel Networks, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection, as well as Kemet Corp. and W.P. Stewart. Several more companies are in danger of getting the boot, as more than 50 companies currently reside on the NYSE list of issuers that are noncompliant with some aspect of the continued listing standards.

We're not necessarily talking about small-cap companies that investors have rarely heard of. Among those in danger of losing their listing on the NYSE are several well-known consumer-related stocks. Retail book chain Borders Group (BGP), car rental giant Avis Budget (CAR), retail drug chain Rite Aid (RAD), amusement park operator Six Flags (SIX) and home furnishings company Pier 1 Imports (PIR) have all received "continued listing" notices from the NYSE in the past few months and trade below $1 a share.

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