From Matt Krantz of USA Today: Cash-strapped consumers are getting reacquainted with cooking at home, and that's been bad news for restaurants and their stocks. The dining-out industry is suffering through a major fire in the kitchen. Slowing business is forcing chains to shutter locations. Restaurants that remain open are seeing a drop-off in sales. Shares of the top 26 restaurant companies have seen their stocks lose an average 49.3% of their value from their highest points over the past 52 weeks. That's been an even harsher pullback than the 46.5% decline of the Standard & Poor's 500 from its 52-week high. There's even deeper pain suffered by individual restaurants and their investors. Ruth's Hospitality (RUTH), operator of the Ruth's Chris Steak Houses; DineEquity (DIN), which runs IHOP and Appleby's; and Ruby Tuesday (RT) have all seen their stocks fall nearly 90%. Meanwhile, 20 members of the retail and restaurants industry classification are dangerously close to having trouble keeping up with the interest payments on their corporate debt, S&P says. That makes it the third-most-pressured industry group among the 21 that S&P considers the weakest. Meanwhile, nine of the top 26 publicly traded companies have posted losses in their most recent quarters. "Everyone is pulling back," says Lynne Collier, restaurant analyst at KeyBanc. "The economy is playing into it."
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