Most Chattanooga-area companies claw back in 2012

Most Chattanooga-area companies claw back in 2012

January 1st, 2013 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

A Covenant Transport truck drives along I-24 over Cummings Highway in this file photo.

Photo by Gillian Bolsover

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

Share prices for most Chattanooga area-based companies gained in 2012 as manufacturers and other sectors benefited from a better housing market and overall economy, according to experts.

Trucking giant Covenant Transport's stock soared 86 percent in its value over the year, while Mohawk Industries shares rose about 51 percent.

"Mohawk was the beneficiary of the housing comeback," said Jim Campbell of Campbell Asset Management.

Jim Stewart of Edward Jones in Chattanooga said that while the economy's gains were tepid in 2012, it's still growing and that's a positive.

"We're looking at sustaining a slow pace," he added, putting gross domestic product at growing about 2 percent in 2013.

Keith Sanford, president of First Tennessee Bank in Chattanooga, said a lot of companies continue to sit on cash, and lending is more competitive among banks.

"We've got to focus on keeping customer service at the forefront, and make sure every expense we have is justified," he said about the Memphis-based bank. "Overall, we're expecting a good year."

Campbell said he likes regional banks in 2013, as housing is expected to continue to improve.

"As so goes housing, so goes the banking system," he said.

But, Campbell said companies such as Chattanooga employee benefits provider Unum Group remain hindered by historically high joblessness nationally and the historically low yields on corporate bonds.

"The unemployment rate needs to get better," he said.

Stewart said that fiscal conditions and lack of investment by businesses are two "clearly defined headwinds" in 2013.

Worries of higher taxes and uncertainty of policymaking decisions are weighing on the economy, he said.

Still, Stewart said, Edward Jones believes that equities are still attractive investments, though caution is needed in terms of diversification.

"The most difficult thing for investors is to control their emotions," he said. "Discipline in the key."