Long Island index stocks' 2013 rally best in a decade
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Last year was a thrill ride for shareholders of Long Island stocks as the 30 companies in Newsday's regional stock index had their best rally in a decade.
The 37 percent gain in the Newsday Long Island Bloomberg index matched the climb of the Russell 2000 index of small companies, a size category encompassing most public companies headquartered here. The stocks were measured from their closing prices on Dec. 31, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2013.
Market observers were mixed in their projections for 2014.
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Thursday, the year's first day of trading, the local index closed down about 1 percent, roughly in line with the overall market.
In 2013, Port Washington-based Aceto Corp., which supplies chemicals to manufacturers, led the index's rally, climbing 149 percent.
By Thursday's close, however, Aceto shares had skidded almost 6 percent to $23.62.
The year's second-biggest gainer was automotive and consumer electronics company Voxx International Corp., at 148 percent, followed by Broadridge Financial Solutions Inc., 73 percent, and Hain Celestial Group Inc. and Dealertrack Technologies Inc., both with 67 percent increases. Voxx is based in Hauppauge, Broadridge and Dealertrack are based in Lake Success, and Hain is based in Melville.
Irwin Kellner, chief economist at MarketWatch.com, a financial website, cautioned that the broad market's 2013 rally might have been "a case of too much too soon."
Since the depths of the recession in March 2009, the market is up more than 150 percent, said Kellner, who is based in Port Washington, and the ratio between stock price and earnings among companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index stands at about 17, a rich valuation compared to the historic average of 15.
"Any serious analyst, as they look ahead, has to think that things have to be a little less exuberant this year," he said.
Numerous obstacles could derail stocks, he said, from a misstep by the Federal Reserve as it gradually tapers its bond-buying program to "political shenanigans" in Washington to disappointing corporate earnings.
"The only thing that seems certain to me is stocks are unlikely to be as buoyant in the new year as in the old," Kellner said.
But Craig Ferrantino, president of Craig James Financial Services LLC, a Melville-based investment and financial planning firm, said he remained "100 percent bullish for the year to come."
Though interest rates will tick up, Ferrantino said, "the economy can handle it."
Ferrantino said the Long Island economy is resilient in part because of its "very educated and experienced workforce."
Four of the top 10 performing companies in the Long Island index were in the financial sector.
Ferrantino said regional financials benefitted by hiring talented employees who were laid off by Wall Street in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
The stocks of only three companies in the index -- One Liberty Properties Inc., of Great Neck, Aeroflex Holding Corp., of Plainview, and Planet Payment Inc., of Long Beach -- lost ground in 2013.
The index's best year since it was created in 1996 was 2003, when shares rose more than 48 percent.
The index has been in the red seven years, compared to 10 years when returns were positive.