Much of the Philly 50 has had a booming 2013

Posted: April 01, 2013

The U.S. stock market will be hard-pressed to top its first-quarter performance.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 1,474.40 points, or 11.25 percent from Dec. 31 until March 28. The Standard & Poor's 500 index also surpassed its nominal all-time high close on Thursday, having climbed 10 percent, or 143 points during the quarter.

That's a good run, given that the S&P rose 13 percent for all of 2012. And for those with short memories, the widely watched equity index finished 2011 unchanged.

Using that 10 percent increase as the standard, then, I find that 35 companies among the Philly 50 "beat" the S&P 500 in the first three months of 2013.

Radian Group Inc., the Center City provider of mortgage insurance, was the best performer, enjoying a 75.3 percent climb in its stock price.

At the other end of the spectrum, DFC Global Corp., the Berwyn-based operator of pawnshops and check-cashing stores, saw its shares lose 10.2 percent of their value.

It's too early for the companies themselves to tell us what worked and what didn't during the first quarter. Earnings reports won't begin to dribble out until mid-April. But some story lines are clear.

Radian has benefited because the housing market has been on the rebound in 2013. That means more mortgage originations, and many of those require mortgage insurance.

DFC may be feeling the effects of regulatory uncertainty over payday lending in the United Kingdom, where it generates about half of its revenue.

Three other local stocks that climbed higher were those that went public in 2012: Globus Medical Inc., a medical-device maker, up 39.9 percent; Epam Systems Inc., a technology services outsourcer, up 28.3 percent; and Five Below Inc., a discount retailer, up 18.3 percent.

At first, I thought it was strange to see Universal Health Services Inc., which saw its shares rise 32.1 percent, rank as the third-best performer behind Globus Medical. But it turns out that hospital stocks in general had a solid quarter, with the 13-member Morgan Stanley Health Care Provider Index up 22 percent.

Some well-known names had equally eye-popping spikes. Unisys Corp., the Blue Bell information-technology services company, rose 31.5 percent. Campbell Soup Co. climbed 30.0 percent. And Lincoln National Corp., the Radnor financial-services firm, was up 25.9 percent.

Besides DFC, five other Philly 50 stocks declined in price in the first quarter: PVR Partners L.P., the Radnor energy company, down 7.2 percent; Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc., the Malvern specialty drugmaker, down 6.7 percent; PHH Corp., the Mount Laurel fleet services provider, down 3.5 percent; FMC Corp., the Philadelphia chemical company, down 2.6 percent; and Urban Outfitters Inc., the Philadelphia retailer, down 1.6 percent.

Contact Mike Armstrong

at 215-854-2980 or, or @PhillyInc on Twitter.

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