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The past year was perhaps surprisingly good for the stock market, considering there was a pandemic. The S&P 500 rose about 15 percent, and between Jan. 1 and Dec. 30, 53 of 91 publicly traded companies with a local presence saw their stock prices rise.

“It’s extremely rare — I don’t think it’s happened in my lifetime at least — when you’re sitting in a recession, which we still are, and the markets are up so much,” said J. Bryant Evans, a portfolio manager and investment adviser with Cozad Asset Management.

He said some companies were able to adapt well to the COVID-19 environment, and some not so much.

“A lot of companies in some sectors were able to take advantage of the lockdowns and semi-lockdowns and generate higher revenues and earnings,” Evans said.

He credited efforts by the federal government for putting cash in people’s pockets to save, spend or invest.

The stock market “would not have bounced back so quickly if the investment community felt like the recession would last for two years,” Evans said. “I think the anticipation is really that it’s temporary because it’s a pandemic.”

He said the information technology sector, which is up more than 40 percent according to Fidelity, stood out this year, as more people worked, learned and socialized from home.

“People have really leaned on technology to be able to live in this environment,” he said.

The consumer discretionary sector grew at the next highest rate, up more than 30 percent over the past year. Within that, the internet and direct marketing retail industry was up more than 65 percent.

“Some stores have thrived and others have really struggled,” Evans said. “Really just anyone who’s been able to take advantage of the extra cash that Americans had and the internet. Those two things combined to make for some really healthy” earnings.

On the other end, the energy sector was down more than 35 percent this past year.

“One reason is energy commodities: oil and natural gas have come down in price. Two, there’s much lower demand: Jets aren’t flying and cars aren’t moving as much,” Evans said. “Third, big oil is struggling with the conversion to clean energy. It’s necessary, but it’s costly.”

Looking ahead, Evans expects a positive year for the stock market, but that will depend in large part on COVID-19 and the vaccine.

“The first half, some people are going to be surprised by how much we struggle to get through vaccinations,” he said. “So we might see kind of a slow start to the year, but by the end of the year, I would expect perhaps a single digit gain for the markets.”

He said that could depend somewhat on the new administration, which could seek more spending on infrastructure that could generate business activity, and on future COVID-19 stimulus packages.

“I wish it wasn’t so dependent on the government for what I’m talking about on the rebound,” Evans said. “But it’s not very normal right now.”

Area stocks, 2020

A look at how various publicly traded companies with local connections performed on the stock market from Jan. 1 to Dec. 30, 2020.

Name YTD % Change
Sizzled
Arconic (New stock listing as of Apr. 1) 327.0%
Vista Outdoor 238.4%
NVIDIA 119.2%
II-VI Inc. (EpiWorks) 116.1%
United Natural Foods 77.1%
FedEx 67.6%
Deere & Co. 50.5%
Patterson Companies 47.9%
Sony Corp. (iCyt) 45.9%
Ball Corp. 45.4%
UPS 42.3%
Dollar General 34.1%
Littelfuse 30.9%
AGCO Corp. 30.6%
Brunswick 30.4%
CNX Resources Corporation 30.3%
American Water Works Co. 25.3%
Viscofan 24.8%
Abbott Labs 24.7%
Consolidated Communications 23.7%
CSX Corp. 23.4%
Walmart 21.2%
Rockwell Automation 21.1%
Home Depot 20.8%
Silgan Holdings 20.5%
Norfolk Southern Corp. 19.9%
Caterpillar 19.6%
Canadian National Railway 19.3%
Owens Corning 18.4%
AbbVie 17.6%
Honeywell International 16.7%
Dollar Tree 14.9%
Citrix Systems 14.9%
S&P 500 14.6%
Below Average
Union Pacific 13.0%
Comcast 12.9%
Caseys General Stores 12.5%
Jeld-Wen Holding, Inc. 10.8%
Freightcar America 10.7%
The Kraft Heinz Co. 9.7%
Pearson 9.6%
Pepsico 8.5%
ADM 8.2%
Digi International 7.6%
ConAgra Brands 7.4%
Alcoa 7.1%
Mondelez International 6.8%
Republic Services 6.5%
Essential Utilities 1.5%
Ameren 1.2%
Hyster-Yale Materials Handling 1.2%
Sinclair Broadcast Group 0.8%
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. 0.6%
Duke Energy Corp. 0.2%
In the Red
AutoZone -1.2%
The Andersons -2.2%
LyondellBasell Industries -3.0%
Donaldson Company -3.1%
First Mid Bancshares -3.9%
Amdocs -4.3%
Universal Health Services -4.3%
Philip Morris International -4.4%
Verizon -4.8%
Cabot Corp. -4.9%
Nexstar Media Group -5.3%
Regions Financial Corp. -6.8%
DTE Energy Co. -7.0%
Exelon Corp. -7.7%
PNC Financial Services Group -8.4%
Old National Bancorp -10.0%
JP Morgan Chase & Co. -11.1%
CME Group Inc. -11.8%
Sysco Corp. -13.4%
Vistra Corp. -14.7%
Deep in the Red
Anheuser-Busch Inbev -15.3%
Kohl's Corp. -15.8%
Altria Group -17.3%
Brookfield Property Partners -18.9%
Intel Corp. -19.9%
HBT Financial -20.2%
First Busey Corp. -22.2%
Raytheon Technologies -26.0%
AT&T -26.7%
Macy's -27.2%
First Midwest Bancorp -31.7%
Walgreens Boots Alliance -33.4%
Bayer -34.4%
NACCO Industries -44.0%
American Airlines Group -44.5%
Wells Fargo & Co. -44.7%
United Continental Holdings -50.2%
J.C. Penney -86.6%

Reporter

Ben Zigterman is a reporter covering business at The News-Gazette. His email is bzigterman@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@bzigterman).

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