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Arkansas Index up 5.32% in third quarter

by Stephen Steed | October 6, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.

The Arkansas Index, designed to track the performance of the largest public companies based in the state, closed the third quarter Thursday at 660.12, up 5.32% for the past three months.

A big market selloff Thursday dropped the performance of the index overall by 5% and soured the third-quarter performances of the individual stocks. But the index, like it has been almost all year, was largely buoyed by the soaring price of Dillard's Inc. shares.

The Little Rock-based retailer's shares closed Thursday at $172.15. Its 52-week high is $217.57; the 52-week low is $34.52.

"Dillard's continued its amazing climb this year and is up about 200% year-to-date," said Chris Harkins, managing director at Raymond James & Associates in Little Rock. "This stellar rally was helped by improved margins and lower expenses. The retailer's aggressive measures to lower excess inventory, owing to the pandemic-led demand, added to gross margins."

On Aug. 15, the index flirted with the 700-point mark, reaching 696.58 before falling 42 points over the next three days when the major indexes also sustained large losses.

Thursday's selloff dropped the index from a gain of nearly 41% for the year to nearly 36%.

The 14 Arkansas stocks in the index are spread across five sectors:

- Banking: Home Banc-Shares, Bank OZK and Simmons First.

- Consumer/Retail: America's Car-Mart, Dillard's, Tyson Foods, Walmart and Murphy USA.

- Energy: Murphy Oil Corp.

- Real estate investment trust: Uniti Group.

- Transportation: ArcBest Corp., J.B. Hunt, P.A.M. Transport and USA Truck.

"Home BancShares stock was flat over the past three months and is up 23% year-to-date," Harkins said. "That compares to the Nasdaq Bank Index up 6% over the past quarter and up 35% this year."

Based in Conway, Home BancShares announced on Sept. 15 its expansion into Texas with the purchase of Happy Bancshares Inc. of Amarillo. It's an all-stock deal worth close to $1 billion, Harkins said.

"When completed, the financial entity will be one of the 75 largest banks in our country," he said.

Until Thursday's selloff, the stock of Bank OZK and Simmons First National were up around 40% year-to-date.

"With oil prices hitting $80 a barrel, shares of Murphy USA jumped 25% this past quarter," Harkins said of the El Dorado gasoline retail and convenience chain. "That move came after a flat first half of 2021 as most analysts polled by Thomson feel the stock is currently at its fair value. Please keep in mind that the majority of profits for MUSA comes from what is inside the store -- drinks, chips, et cetera versus margins at the pump."

With the exception of USA Truck, Arkansas trucking stocks generally continued their rally, Harkins noted.

"As the economy reopens, trucks are in great demand and this industry's challenge remain both drivers and, now, lately the price of fuel," Harkins said.

Shares of Springdale-based Tyson Foods Inc. gained 7% for the quarter and are up 25% this year.

"Solid growth in the retail channel, thanks to strong brand offerings, helped push the stock higher with food service demand ramping up," Harkins said.

Print Headline: Arkansas Index up 5.32% in third quarter

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