published Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Most Chattanooga area companies ride markets' tailwinds in 2013

Creeler Vickie Glover replaces an empty spool at the Dixie Group in North Georgia.
Creeler Vickie Glover replaces an empty spool at the Dixie Group in North Georgia.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

LOCAL STOCK VALUES

Shares of nearly all publicly traded companies based in the Chattanooga area rose in 2013. The businesses' closing stock price Tuesday and the company's yearly market change last year, in order, were:

• Dixie Group, $13.20, up 302.4 percent

• Unum Group, $35.08, up 68.4 percent

• Mohawk Industries, $148.90, up 64.6 percent

• Covenant Transport, $8.21, up 48.4 percent

• Miller Industries, $18.63, up 22.1 percent

• Astec Industries, $38.63, up 15.7 percent

• Cornerstone, $2.37, up 3.4 percent

• First Security, $2.30, up 3.1 percent

• CBL & Associates, $17.96, down 15.3 percent

Source: NYSE, NASDAQ, OTC

More hiring and homebuilding in 2014 are expected to continue to provide tailwinds to key Chattanooga area companies such as Dixie Group and Unum and boost their stock prices, financial experts said Tuesday.

But, the big gains some companies' shares experienced last year, such as Dixie's 302 percent increase over 2012, aren't likely to repeat themselves.

"It's unlikely Mohawk Industries will be up another 60 percent this year," said Jim Campbell of Campbell Asset Management. "Moderate gains I do expect."

Chris Hopkins of Barnett & Co. said that while the housing recovery slowed in the second half of 2013, the trend is still higher for this year.

"Home furnishings will benefit from the continued recovery," he said.

Interest rates, meanwhile, are likely to rise this year, Hopkins said, and that will help companies such as employee benefits provider Unum.

Campbell said higher rates can bolster gains from Unum's investment portfolio, and greater employment growth also will aid the insurer.

"They're tied with increasing employment," he said, noting that employed people buy benefits such as disability insurance.

Hopkins said he's "cautiously optimistic" about employment trends in 2014. He noted the country won't face a so-called fiscal cliff in 2014, and a two-year budget deal approved earlier by Congress should clear the way for companies to make a little more capital investment.

"That should lead to more hiring," Hopkins said.

The only Chattanooga-based company whose share price fell last year was shopping center developer CBL & Associates Properties Inc., with its stock dropping about 15 percent.

Campbell said the enclosed mall business is challenged, though CBL's fundamentals "haven't done poorly." Campbell, who said he holds CBL shares, added that company officials expect revenues to be higher in 2014.

Also, he said, CBL's dividend yield is nearly 5.5 percent.

"I particularly like their preferred stock," Campbell said.

Hopkins said the nation's surging energy sector should boost employment growth this year. That should benefit manufacturers as well, he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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