How Mississippi stocks fared in 2018

By CHARLIE SMITH,

The Dow Jones Industrial Average takes 30 of the United States’ biggest companies and combines their stock prices to see how they change over time. The idea is that looking at those most influential corporations (we’re talking the Coca-Colas and IBMs of the world) gives an idea of how the overall economy is performing.

While the fund is now known worldwide, it got its start with a humble newspaper editor in 1884, Charles Dow of what would become the Wall Street Journal, compiling a list of stock values.

I hope you see where I’m going with this: I, too, am a newspaper editor; my name is also Charles; I can start my own version.

So I give you the Mississippi Stock Index. Because our state’s economy is relatively small, there are not many publicly traded companies based here, making it a relatively simply exercise to chart their prices together.

I came up with a list of just 10 publicly traded companies based here:

  • BancorpSouth Bank, Tupelo
  • Callon Petroleum Co., Natchez (announced in November it’s moving its headquarters to Texas, but I’m still considering it a Mississippi company for now)
  • Cal-Maine Foods, Jackson
  • Citizen Holding Co, Philadelphia
  • EastGroup Properties, Ridgeland
  • Hancock Whitney Corp., Gulfport
  • Renasant Corp., Tupelo
  • Sanderson Farms, Laurel
  • The First Bancshares, Hattiesburg
  • Trustmark Corp., Jackson

It’s interesting that six of the 10 are banks. Two of the others are chicken-related (Cal-Maine with the eggs and Sanderson Farms with the meat).

To get my index, I simply did what Mr. Dow did all those years ago: Add up each of their stock prices and track it over time. At the opening of 2018, the value of the Mississippi Stock Index was $494.59. As of Dec. 17, the day I wrote this, the value was $419.17. That’s a 15 percent decline, compared to a 5 percent decline for the Dow Jones over the same time. Not good for Mississippi.

Eight of the 10 have lost value, one has been flat and the only one to produce substantial gains has been EastGroup Properties, which has seen its stock price rise about 10 percent. I’ll admit I’d never heard of the company, but it’s a true success story. A press release in December said it has increased or maintained its dividend to shareholders for 26 consecutive years. The company describes itself as a “self-administered equity real estate investment trust focused on the development, acquisition and operation of industrial properties in major Sunbelt markets throughout the United States with an emphasis in the states of Florida, Texas, Arizona, California and North Carolina.” What I get is that it buys industrial buildings in high-growth areas and rents them out; seems like a successful business model to me.

But the other Mississippi-based companies have not done well. The bank stocks declined 18 percent on average, while what is probably the biggest and best-known company, Sanderson Farms, has dropped 30 percent.

How much does the Mississippi Stock Index tell us about the state’s economy? Well, it’s more intended as an interesting exercise, not a true analysis. So, as they say, I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. n

Charlie Smith is editor and publisher of The Columbian-Progress. Reach him at 736-2611 or csmith@columbianprogress.com.

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