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By John D. Oravecz
Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
 

A market swoon in the last five trading days of the month erased gains for many Pittsburgh-area stocks in July.

The Trib 30 stock index ended trading on Thursday at 428.7, a 4.9 percent decline from June's all-time high of 450.7. The 22-point drop in the index of local stocks was the biggest since January.

A three-week surge during the month among local stocks produced 15 52-week highs among the 30 local issues and zero lows. Last week, however, markets reversed course, and 22 of the Trib 30 stocks ended down for the month.

A variety of economic concerns took hold — tensions with Russia, fears over an earlier interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve, fallout from Argentina's default on its debt and, on Thursday, the largest gain in labor costs in more than 5 years — fanning long-standing fears of inflation as the economy strengthens.

Nationally, the major indices fell. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.96 percent in July, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index down 2.7 percent and the Nasdaq composite index off 2.6 percent.

The Trib 30 is an equal-weighted index of stocks of companies headquartered or dominant in Western Pennsylvania. An investor who divided $100,000 equally among the 30 stocks on Dec. 31, 1999, had a portfolio worth $428,700 at the end of the month.

Among the 22 local gainers last month, U.S. Steel Corp. stood out, closing July up 28.5 percent at $33.47, after hitting a 52-week high of $33.85 this on better-than-expected results and an optimistic third-quarter forecast. Another standout was aluminum producer Alcoa Inc., which continued recent gains, finishing the month up 10.1 percent, also on improved results.

But six local stocks fell at the end of the month by more than 10 percent, led by Allegheny Technologies Inc., which reported a loss despite forecasts that it will benefit in 2015 from its $1.2 billion flat-rolled products mill completed in December, which is undergoing break-in testing at its Brackenridge plant in Harrison. ATI fell 16.5 percent, followed by rail supplier L.B. Foster Co. (13.8 percent), natural gas producer EQT Corp. (12.2 percent), networking supplier Black Box Corp. (11.7 percent), manufacturer Eaton Corp. (10.6 percent) and utility First Energy Corp. (10.1 percent).

John D. Oravecz is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7882. or joravecz@tribweb.com.

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