Utah stocks far outpace U.S. indexes
Stockholders in most of Utah's largest publicly held companies were probably patting themselves on the back as they watched their investments grow through the first nine months of 2012.
The Salt Lake Tribune/Bloomberg Index, which measures the share-price performance of the state's 26 largest firms, gained a more than respectable 23 percent through the end of the third quarter this year.
In contrast, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 10 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 was up 15 percent.
"In an upwardly moving market like we're seeing now, it isn't that unusual for some small-cap companies to see big price movements [in their shares]," said Sterling Jenson, regional managing director for Wells Capital Management in Salt Lake City.
Unlike the Dow and the S&P 500, the Utah index is made up primarily of small-cap companies. They all have a market capitalization a figure calculated by multiplying the number of shares a company has outstanding by its stock price of $1 billion or less.
And it was one such Utah company that saw its share price gain eclipse the best-performing stocks on both the Dow and S&P 500 so far this year.
Headwaters Inc., a South Jordan-based building products company, rose 196 percent in the first nine months of 2012 although its stock price, now around $7, remains well off the highs of 2005, when the shares were trading above $40 a share.
During the past several years, Headwaters slashed expenses by upward of $60 million and streamlined and consolidated its manufacturing facilities, said Sharon Madden, the company's spokeswoman. "We're in a good position now to take advantage of any improvement in the economy, and we are seeing demand picking up."
Headwaters wasn't the only steller performer on the Tribune/Bloomberg Index.
Security National Financial Corp., a Salt Lake City-based business conglomerate, saw its share price rise by 169 percent. It was Utah's second-best performing stock through the end of the third quarter.
The company operates in three different business areas. It sells life insurance, annuity products and health and accident policies. It operates cemeteries in Utah and California, and mortuaries in Utah and Arizona. It also originates and underwrites residential and commercial loans for new construction and existing homes.
Shares of Extra Space Storage, a real estate investment trust that operates in the self-storage industry, rose 37 percent. But that was only enough for the company to place ninth among the Top 10 companies on the Tribune/Bloomberg Index.
Company spokesman Clint Halverson said the company has had a good year so far.
"We've acquired around 60 properties worth just shy of $500 million. Demand for self-storage units has held steady and there is virtually no new supply coming online. So we think we are pretty well positioned for the future," Halverson said.
Some Utah companies saw their share prices decline, but only six of the 26 companies on the Tribune/Bloomberg Index are lower now than when the year began.
Among the better known was St. George-based SkyWest Inc., the parent company of SkyWest Airlines. Its shares were down 18 percent. Although the company remained highly profitable, industry analysts earlier this year were questioning whether the regional airline business model still worked.
After hitting a low of $6.31 on Aug. 3, the company's stock has rebounded to top $10.
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