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The Covenant Transport facility is located southwest of downtown Chattanooga, adjacent to Interstate 24.

Outpacing the broader markets, shares of most Chattanooga area publicly traded companies rose in the first quarter of 2015.

Trucking company Covenant Transportation Group and floor-covering maker Mohawk Industries led the local companies with shares up about 22 percent and 19 percent, respectively.

The market indexes were up barely in the first quarter, with the Dow plunging 200 points on Tuesday.

Jim Campbell, managing partner of Campbell Asset Management in Chattanooga, said the markets likely are anticipating either a June or September interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve Board.

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Astec Industries

Local stocks in 1st quarter

Company, March 31 closing and percent change from Dec. 31, 2014:
* Covenant Transportation: $33.16, up 22.3 percent
* Mohawk Industries: $185.75, up 19.5 percent
* Miller Industries: $24.50, up 17.8 percent
* Astec Industries: $42.88, up 9 percent
* First Security Group: $2.40, up 6.1 percent
* CBL: $19.80, up 1.9 percent
* Cornerstone Bancshares: $3.32, up less than 1 percent
* Dixie Group: $9.05, down 1.3 percent
* Unum Group: $33.75, down 3.2 percent
* S&P: 2,067.89, up less than 1 percent
* Dow Jones: 17,776.12, down less than 1 percent
Source: NYSE, NASDAQ

"I don't suspect after six years of dovish Fed policy, the markets are really prepared," he said, adding that a lot of market participants think the Fed with "blink."

Covenant last month updated expectations, saying that demand in the first quarter is solidly above a year ago.

"The company has experienced year-over-year improvements in its operating results" over the January and February, said Covenant CEO David Parker in a statement. Freight revenue increased 11.6 in the period while average freight revenue per total mile grew 5.1 percent, the company reported.

Mohawk, meanwhile, reported that work has started on the company's new $180 million Tennessee plant outside Nashville that will employ 320 people. In January, Mohawk announced a $1.2 billion acquisition of the IVC Group, a manufacturers of sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl tiles and laminate.

Shares of Astec Industries, the maker of asphalt road-building and other equipment, were up nearly 9 percent in the first quarter.

Rick Dorris, Astec's chief operating officer, said business is good for the Chattanooga-based company.

"We're busy. The backlog is good," he said.

Campbell said that in addition to the Fed starting to move to a "neutral position," companies are factoring in the higher dollar. That hurts commodity prices and makes U.S. exports more expensive across the globe, he said.

The U.S. dollar is up 9 percent for the year and is expected to continue weighing on corporate earnings, which begin reporting in April.

Low oil prices also continued to weigh, experts said, as Iran and six world powers negotiated a deal that could ease sanctions and allow more Iranian crude onto world markets. Crude oil futures settled down $1.08, or 2.2 percent, at $47.60 a barrel on Tuesday.

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

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