Stocks usually rise in presidential year

If history is a reliable predictor of the future, 2012 should be a strong year for the U.S. stock market.

After all, the S&P 500 has posted positive gains in every year of a U.S. presidential election since 1928, with only four exceptions (the most recent being the recession of 2008).

The stocks in the BizTimes Stock Index, which tracks publicly traded companies headquartered in southeastern Wisconsin, could use a presidential boost after a lackluster 2011.

Only eight of the 35 stocks in the BizTimes Stock Index posted gains in 2011: Generac Holdings Inc., Merge Technologies Inc., Johnson Outdoors Inc., Twin Disc Inc., Harley-Davidson Inc., A.O. Smith Corp., Sensient Technologies Inc. and Rockwell Automation Inc.

Note that all of the elite eight are manufacturers. That is reflective of the strong year manufacturers had in 2011.

Generac wins the honor as the largest gainer in the local index for the year. By any measure, business is booming at Generac, which manufactures power generators.

The Waukesha-based company recently announced that it plans to create more than 400 jobs over the next year.

Generac plans to add the employees at its Waukesha, Eagle and Whitewater locations and another 50 to 60 at its newly acquired plant in Berlin, Wis. Generac acquired Berlin light tower and mobile generator manufacturer Magnum Products in October.

Generac attributed a 49-percent growth in third quarter total net sales to a 60.5-percent increase in residential product sales and heightened demand.

Company president and chief executive officer Aaron Jagdfeld said, “The third quarter of 2011 was marked by a number of significant milestones for Generac. We saw record shipments of our residential products following the major power outage events that occurred in the Midwest and along the East Coast during the third quarter. Our sustained efforts over the past three years to build a leading position in the market for portable generators resulted in a sharp increase in sales due to the increased demand for these products in the third quarter. We also saw increased demand for our home standby generators in the quarter and we expect that demand will grow over the next several quarters as homeowners look to protect themselves from future power outages.”

The local publicly traded companies that held their ground through 2011 included Fiserv Inc., Weyco Group Inc. and Koss Corp.

All of the other companies in the BizTimes Stock Index saw their stock share prices drop for the year.

In the broader market, the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 5.5 percent to close the year at 12,217.56. The broader S&P 500 ended the year right where it started, with a microscopic loss of just 0.003 percent to close at 1,257.60. The Nasdaq Composite finished in the red, slipping 1.8 percent to 2,605.15.

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