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March second consecutive down month for Trib 30

| Sunday, April 8, 2001


If a bear market has not arrived, it at least left muddy paw prints on the Trib 30 as it passed through during March.

The local stock index slipped for the second straight month, following February's decline of more than 10 percent.

Trib 30 losers out-numbered gainers by almost two-to-one, as 19 stocks lost value and 11 appreciated. While the pain was fairly evenly distributed, high-technology stocks tended to suffer more than most.

Before February and March, the local index had posted eight successive months of increases.

The Trib 30 is an equal-weighted index of stocks of public companies located or dominant in western Pennsylvania. Thus, an investor who divided $100,000 equally among Trib 30 stocks on Dec. 31, 1997, would own a portfolio worth $118,800 on March 30.

The local index added a new member in March: Matthews International Corp. It replaces Tuscarora Inc., the maker of custom-molded protection packaging that was acquired for $284 million by Swedish-based SCA Packaging International B.V. early last month.

Matthews mainly manufactures bronze markers for grave sites in North America, Italy and Australia. The company also makes printing plates for the packaging industry, as well as marking products for consumer and industrial markets.

The company posted earnings of almost $28 million, or $1.76 a share, on revenue of roughly $262 million for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

Matthews stock increased more than 5 percent last month to $32.72 - close to its 52-week high of $33.13.

March proved to be not only a down and volatile month but also a 'go figure' one. More Trib 30 stocks set 52-week highs in March than set new lows, and on very little market-moving news.

Four local stocks - three tech stocks and a utility - fell to new lows.

Black Box, Cable Design Technologies and iGate Capital all established 52-week lows, apparently on the continued, general down-draft that hit tech stocks on Wall Street in February and March.

Neither those three nor Duquesne Light, which also hit a new low mark, posted any noteworthy news last month.

On the other hand, two utilities - Dominion Resources and Equitable Resources - rose to 52-week highs. Late last month, Dominion reported it would tack on higher charges to customers' bills because, due to 'a clerical oversight,' customers had been under-charged since Nov. 1. Equitable Resources didn't report any big news.

Construction engineer Michael Baker rose to its third-straight new high in three months. The company in March reported it landed an $80 million tunnel job in New Jersey.

Wabtec, the rail-products maker, also hit its third new high in three months. But it did not report any significant news.

Neither did Kennametal, which last month hit its second-straight new high. The company was the fourth 'old economy' stock on the Trib 30 to set a high mark in March.

Thomas Olson can be reached at tolson@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7854.

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