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In the worst week ever for the U.S. stock market, the Yonder 40 did better than the rest.
That's not saying the Yonder 40, 40 stocks chosen to reflect the rural economy, did well in a disasterous five days of trading. But the DY 40 did only lose 14% last week.
The Dow Industrials and the Standard and Poor 500 lost 18% each.
Since the Daily Yonder first started following these 40 stocks that do much of their business in rural America, in July 2007, the hypothetical stock index is down 30%. The Dow is off 37% and the S&P 500 is down 40%. (See chart above for full history of the Yonder 40.)
Only two DY 40 stocks managed to scratch out gains last week. Tractor Supply, the rural retail supplier, rose 4%. And Plum Creek Timber, which has been serving as a refuge for dollars recently, went up 1% in the past week.
For the rest of the 40, the news was mostly grim, as prices dropped in the face of good news and bad. The news last week was mostly about a general slowdown in the economy, of lower prices and scant sales. Fewer people are buying recreational vehicles. Demand for NASCAR tickets is softening. Furniture sales are down.
Even the successes of the week bespoke economic troubles. Family Dollar Stores reported that its fiscal fourth quarter net income rose 41% on strong sales, likely spurred by government stimulus checks. Family Dollar said it was helped by shoppers looking for the kinds of bargains the small town main street retailer offers. And so the company said it expected sales to increase 4% to 6% in the September to November quarter.
Higher sales didn't change the market's opinion of Family Dollar stock. The company's stock lost 9% in last week's selloff.
Monsanto also was bullish on its prospects last week. The company said that the outlook for global crop demand remained strong and that U.S. farmers still had access to credit, despite the turmoil in the general financial markets.
Monsanto's chief financial officer, Terry Crews, told Dow Jones that lenders had informed him they were renewing and extending loans to U.S. farmers. The U.S. Farm Credit System was recently recapitalized and the banks that have financed the ag sector have largely avoided the worst of the world credit crisis.
Besides, Monsanto said, the last thing farmers will stop buying are the company's primary product: seeds. The market rewarded Monsanto's optimism by knocking down the company's stock by only 5.5%
Among the rest of the Yonder 40, the news was all about softening markets, layoffs and lower sales:
“¢ Bassett Furniture announced a second quarter loss. Sales for the quarter ending August 30 were down slightly from a year ago.
“¢ Fleetwood Enterprises, a maker of recreational vehicles, will close its motor home production plant in Paxinos, Pennsylvania, in December. The company's sales have been hurt by higher gas prices and lenders who are reluctant to finance sales of recreational vehicles.
Fleetwood will move its Paxinos production to its main production facility in Decatur, Indiana, which has excess capacity. The company employed 325 people at the Pennsylvania plant.
“¢ Ticket sales have slowed at racing events, announced International Speedway Corp, which hosts NASCAR races. Most of International's revenues come from television contracts, but the company did say it saw a softening of ticket demand as race goers struggled in a weak economy.
“¢ Financial stocks rose sharply on Friday. Regions Financial was up over 20%. But Regions was still down 32% for the week, the largest drop on the Yonder 40. Southwest Bancorp was up 27% on Friday, but still was down more than 5% for the week.
“¢ Electricity producers were among the most hard hit as commodity prices dropped. Lower commodity prices also lowered the price companies can charge for power. Investors also believe power demand will decline as the economy slows. So shares of power companies dropped sharply. Southern Co. lost 13% last week.
“¢ Several rural retailers reported poor sales and cutbacks. Stage Stores reported a 14% drop in same store sales in September. Cabela's, the hunting and fishing outfitter, announced it would reduce its workforce by 10% at corporate headquarters. Cato Corp. also reported a decrease in sales in September.
“¢ The telecommunications sector was also hard hit last week, and rural internet provider Fairpoint Communications fell nearly 20%.
“¢ We're a little slow here at the Yonder, but we have updated Citizens Communications. The rural telecom is now known as Frontier Communications Corp., ticker FTR.
Here are the results for the full Yonder 40 for the week ending October 10, 2008:
|Yonder 40||Ticker||Price October 10||Price Change 10/3 to 10/10||Percent Change 10/3 to 10/10|
|Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp.||BNI||80.16||$3.13||3.8%|
|Peabody Energy Corp.||BTU||28.65||$7.47||20.7%|
|ConAgra Foods Inc.||CAG||17.77||$2.07||10.4%|
|Cato Corp. Cl A||CTR||12.73||$2.83||18.2%|
|Deere & Co.||DE||38.12||$1.12||2.9%|
|Dean Foods Co.||DF||19.77||$4.44||18.3%|
|Family Dollar Stores Inc.||FDO||22.3||$2.25||9.2%|
|Fleetwood Enterprises Inc.||FLE||0.65||$0.27||29.3%|
|Gaylord Entertainment Co.||GET||20.81||$4.67||18.3%|
|International Speedway Corp.||ISCA||27.59||$8.60||23.8%|
|Mohawk Industries Inc.||MHK||49||$9.68||16.5%|
|Mine Safety Appliances Co.||MSA||26||$9.50||26.8%|
|Plum Creek Timber REIT||PCL||45.52||$0.45||1.0%|
|Penn Virginia Corp.||PVA||31.74||$11.05||25.8%|
|Regions Financial Corp.||RF||9.14||$4.38||32.4%|
|Sturm Ruger & Co.||RGR||6.49||$0.33||4.8%|
|Stage Stores Inc.||SSI||9.3||$2.20||19.1%|
|Tractor Supply Co.||TSCO||38.31||$1.45||3.9%|
|Waddell & Reed Financial Inc.||WDR||15.35||$6.17||28.7%|
|Wal Mart Stores||WMT||50.95||$8.78||14.7%|