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Utah stock index lifted by market surge

Published April 2, 2013 12:28 am

Equities • Many well-known Utah companies see big-time share-price gains.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A stock market surge that saw the Dow Jones industrial average hit an all-time high during the first quarter of 2013 also greatly benefitted the shares of Utah's publicly held companies.

The Salt Lake Tribune/Bloomberg Index, which tracks the share-price performance of Utah's largest publicly held companies, rose 12 percent during the first quarter of this year, hitting a record of 395.90 on March 26. Its performance beat the 11 percent gain of the Dow and the 10 percent climb by Standard & Poor's 500.

"The gains we saw during the first quarter were fairly broad based," said Sterling Jenson, regional managing director for Wells Capital Management in Salt Lake City. "All the major sectors went up in value."

Nationally, investors seemed to be particularly focused on buying shares of companies with high dividend yields, such as those found in the health care, consumer staples and utility sectors, he said.

And that seemed to play out among Utah companies as well.

Utah's top performer during the first quarter was USANA, a multi-level marketing company that sells nutritional and personal health care products. Its shares were up 47 percent.

In mid-March, USANA announced plans to expand its operations into Colombia and indicated it would be opening an office in the capital city of Bogota during the third quarter of this year. With the addition of the Colombia market, USANA will have operations in 19 markets worldwide.

Dave Wentz, USANA's chief executive officer, said in a statement that he anticipates the expansion into Colombia will support positive growth in the company's Americas region and will be an excellent entrance opportunity in South America. "We are opening this market with confidence due to the success of our outstanding associate leaders in Mexico and the U.S., who have existing ties to Colombia," he said.

The second-best performing stock in the Tribune/Bloomberg Index belonged to Utah Medical Products, which makes a broad range of disposable and reusable medical items. The company has a particular interest in health care for women and their babies.

Early in the first quarter of this year, Utah Medical reported that its revenue increased 10 percent to $41.5 million for the 2012 fiscal year, while its net income rose 37 percent to $10.2 million.

"We had a really good year in 2012," said Utah Medical spokesman Paul Richins, noting that much of the gains were the result of the acquisition of Femcare, which helped the company expand its operations outside the U.S. into the U.K. and Australia.

Also during the first quarter, Utah Medical raised its quarterly cash dividend to 24.5 cents per share, an increase of 2 percent over the dividend declared in the same quarter of the previous year.

Other top performing Utah companies during the first quarter included SkyWest, the St. George-based holding company for SkyWest Airlines. Its shares rose 29 percent during the first quarter, when the company also declared its 74th consecutive quarterly dividend.

Questar Corp., the natural gas company whose subsidiary Questar Gas provides most Utahns with fuel to heat their homes and run their water heaters, had the sixth best performing stock, gaining 23 percent in the first three months of this year. During the quarter, Questar's board declared a dividend of 17 cents per share. It was the company's 273rd consecutive dividend.

Not all of Utah's publicly held companies were able to cash in on the stock market gains during the first three months of this year.

Of the 24 companies that make up the Tribune/Bloomberg Index, eight their saw share prices decline. They included BSD Medical, down 3 percent; Dynatronics, down 6 percent, Myriad Genetics; down 7 percent and Overstock.com, whose shares fell 14 percent during the quarter that saw its Chairman and CEO, Patrick Byrne, take a personal leave of absence for medical reasons.

steve@sltrib.com

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