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Utah stocks fare well in 1st half of 2012

Published July 2, 2012 9:31 pm

Index of local companies outperforms the Dow and S&P 500 in the first half, although some firm's shares saw extreme declines.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utahns who kept their money invested close to home stood a good chance of seeing some decent returns during the first half of this year.

The Salt Lake Tribune/Bloomberg Index, which tracks the share prices of Utah's best-known publicly held companies, outperformed both the Dow Jones industrial average and the S&P 500 over the past six months.

It saw a gain of 15.3 percent, compared with the Dow's rise of 5.4 percent and the S&P 500's 8.3 percent increase.

Although some companies took big hits, of the 27 included on the local index, 20 saw their shares rise in price, with South Jordan-based Headwaters Inc. topping the list.

Even though Headwaters' shares were bruised, battered and beaten down during the recession, the building products conglomerate more recently has seen its stock come roaring back to life. Its shares climbed 132 percent in the six-month period. The company in April reported a 19 percent increase in its light building products sales and a 14 percent increase in its heavy construction materials for the first half of its 2011 fiscal year.

"The improving business trends we saw in the first quarter of the year continued in the second quarter, which we view as an indication that we are in a more positive operating environment," Headwaters CEO Kirk Benson said in announcing the company's latest financial results.

Schiff Nutrition, a Salt Lake City-based company that sells vitamins and other nutritional supplements, had Utah's second-best performing stock. Its shares gained 68 percent during the first half.

Other Utah companies that saw notable gains in their share prices included ZAGG, up 54 percent; USANA, up 35 percent; and the Park City Group and Huntsman, which both saw their shares rise 29 percent.

"We had a yo-yo type market during the first half of this year," said Toby Levitt, chief investment officer at Albion Financial Group in Salt Lake City. "It started out strong early in the year then gave up most of its advance in the second quarter, only to turn around again and recapture some of the the earlier gains."

There were some Utah companies that failed to track the overall market during the first half of this year.

Overstock.com's shares were off 12 percent, even as the company was recently honored as "Company of the Year in Retail" at the American Business Awards.

Shares of EnergySolutions, the Salt Lake-based nuclear waste company, fell 45 percent. The company's stock has yet to recover from the fallout of the shakeup in its management in mid-June — an announcement that saw share prices fall nearly 55 percent in a single day.

Utah's worst-performing stock was SkyWest Inc., the St. George-based holding company for SkyWest Airlines.

Shares fell 48 percent from the close of business on Dec. 31, 2011, to the end of trading last Friday. The company's shares have fallen out of favor with some securities analysts, who question whether regional airline business model is broken and unable to adapt to the rapidly changing industry.

steve@sltrib.com

Twitter: @OberbeckBiz