Market value of Chattanooga firms plummets as coronavirus infects investor confidence

Traders at the New York Stock Exchange work as the market closes, Wednesday, March 18, 2020 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The market value of Chattanooga's publicly traded companies lost more than half of its collective value so far this year following another major sell-off of stocks Wednesday on Wall Street.

Amid growing concerns about the economic impact from the coronavirus epidemic, stocks fell again Wednesday and have now erased nearly all of the gains made since President Trump was inaugurated in January 2017.

The market value of Chattanooga's eight publicly traded companies is down by nearly $9 billion since the start of 2020 with three of the region's biggest companies - Mohawk Industries, Unum Group and CBL Properties - shedding more than half of their market value since Jan. 1.

Overall, the stock market as measured by the S&P 500 has dropped by more than 25% so far this year.

"It's, it's a very tough situation," Trump said of the economic fallout from the virus during a news conference Wednesday. "You have to close parts of an economy that six weeks ago were the best they've ever been.... And then one day you have to close it down in order to defeat this enemy."

With a growing number of stores shutting down indefinitely, the shopping center developer CBL has been especially hard hit. Common shares of the Chattanooga-based shopping center developer plunged Wednesday by more than 38% to an all-time low. CBL's stock is barely one fourth of its price at the start of the year and the company' stock is down by 84.6% in the past 12 months.

The Calhoun, Georgia-based Mohawk Industries, the world's biggest floorcovering firm and the highest valued publicly traded company in the Chattanooga area, has lost just over half of its market value so far this year as investors worry about a drop in carpet and flooring sales and imports from China.

Unum, the world's biggest disability insurer, has lost nearly 60% of its market value so far in 2020. The benefit insurer is hurt by lower interest rates that limit returns on its more than $50 billion investment portfolio and Unum could also be hurt by a recession that limits the number of persons buying its insurance plans around the world.

But the decline on Wall Street was felt across the board with only one of Chattanooga's eight publicly traded companies, the Dixie Group, showing any stock gain on Wednesday.

Wednesday's selling swept markets around the world. Benchmark U.S. oil fell 24% and dropped below $21 per barrel for the first time since 2002. European stock indexes lost more than 4% following broad losses in Asia.

"The problem for the market really is we just don't know anymore," said J.J. Kinahan, chief strategist with TD Ameritrade. "And until we really know where things are at, you may see people who just want to have as much cash as possible."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Local stocks decline

Shares of seven of the eight publicly traded companies headquartered in the Chattanooga area declined Wednesday. Only the carpet maker Dixie Group had a minimal gain in its stock price in trading Wednesday.

* CBL & Associates Properties fell by 38.1% to 28 cents a share, an all-time low. CBL is down 73.3% so far this year.

* Mohawk Industries fell by 24.25% to $65.05 per share, the lowest since 2012. Mohawk stock is down 52.3% so far this year.

* Unum Group fell 12.2% to $11.80 per share, its lowest price since 2008. Unum stock is down 59.9% so far this year.

* Covenant Transport fell 10.5% to $10.55 per share. Covenant stock is down 28.4% so far this year.

* Miller Industries fell 7.1% to $26.28 per share. Miller stock is down 27.1% so far this year.

* U.S. Xpress Enterprises fell 5.2% to $3.30 per share. U.S. Xpress is down 28.5% so far this year.

* Astec Industries fell 2.9% to $27.76 per share. Astec stock is down 33.3% so far this year.

* Dixie Group rose 0.01% to 98 cents per share. Dixie stock is down 14.3% so far this year.