The promise of benefits from health care reform and a pick-up in consumer spending were the two main themes driving the best-performing stocks based in the Nashville area in the first six months of 2013.
Sixteen Middle Tennessee names outpaced the 12.6 percent first-half gain posted by the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index. Of those companies, 10 — including hospital players Vanguard Health Systems, Community Health Systems and LifePoint Hospitals — gained 25 percent or more. In recent months, investors have grown increasingly bullish about the impact of bringing into the insurance system millions of people now without coverage. On top of that, the announced sale of Vanguard Health Systems to Tenet Healthcare and the uncertainty surrounding Health Management Associates have put something of an M&A floor under many stocks.
On the retail side, local names Kirkland's, Cracker Barrel, Tractor Supply and Genesco all gained at least 20 percent. But with GDP growth still not as strong as many would like, it's not clear how much more the sector could climb. Except for Genesco, the median price target among analysts covering these four companies is less than 10 percent above where they ended trading Friday.
Health care names also feature at the bottom of our list, but most of those are in the senior care sector. The two companies losing the most ground through June 30 are Louisiana-Pacific and Noranda Aluminum. For both companies, lower pricing for their products was the main culprit — although it should be noted that LP shares are still up 35 percent year-over-year thanks to the housing sector's recovery.
View our full first-half rankings here.