Wall Street 3rd-quarter misery saps Covenant

Shares of Chattanooga area public companies dropped in value the past quarter, driven down with the broader markets by the sluggish economy and fears over Europe's debt meltdown, experts said Friday.

Covenant Transportation Group's stock price closed Friday at less than half its value at the start of the quarter, while floorcovering giant Mohawk Industries' shares fell by 28.4 percent in the quarter.

Shopping center developer CBL & Associates Properties Inc.'s shares last week hit a 52-week low on the same day the company announced it agreed to purchase Northgate Mall in the city.

But Charles Lebovitz, the company's chairman, said that day that CBL looks for long-term value.

"That's part of CBL's strategy," he said. "We've always tried to be careful and selective with properties with future development opportunities."

Jon Dutton, an Edward Jones financial adviser in LaFayette, Ga., said investors need to keep a long-term focus amid the slow economy.

"Too often we expect things to go straight up," he said. "We think that with the pullback, it's a great opportunity for high-quality companies."

Still, Chris Hopkins, vice president of investments at Barnett & Co., said there's no easy fix to the economy.

"The process of unwinding debt is not halfway over yet," he said.

Hopkins said investors are accustomed to a fairly quick recovery from economic downturns.

"Investors are realizing they're not seeing the growth rates they were hoping for," he said.

Hopkins added that people are finally realizing the magnitude of the European debt crisis.

"There's a fear it could unwind explosively," he said.

At the same time, Dutton said, many corporate balance sheets are better than they've been in years, and dividends have risen as interest rates have fallen.

He urged investor patience, not changing their objectives based on the ebb and flow of the market and not taking on more risk than which they're comfortable.