Calgon Carbon's normally somnolent shares were the leader of the Top 50 pack last year, gaining 156 percent.
But 2007 wasn't a good year for many regional companies. Shareholders of 24 of the companies on the list ended the year with stock that was worth less than it was when 2007 began. The hardest hit were investors at HFF, a Downtown real estate services firm whose shares declined 59 percent.
Overall, The Post-Gazette Bloomberg index of regional stocks gained 9.6 percent last year vs. a 21.5 percent advance in 2006.
Shares of Robinson-based Calgon Carbon were energized by a turnaround. The company reported profits of $15.3 million vs. a 2006 loss of $7.8 million, reflecting price increases and greater demand for activated carbon. The company's products and services are used to make water and air safer and cleaner.
Only two other companies recorded triple-digit advances in their stock price last year vs. six in 2006. Consol Energy, an Upper St. Clair coal producer, advanced 123 percent, while L.B. Foster, of Green Tree, shot ahead 100 percent on a $123 million pretax gain on the sale of its stake in the DM&E Railroad, a regional rail line, to Canadian Pacific Railway.
Foster was one of only two companies making a repeat Top 10 performance, moving up from eighth place on last year's list to No. 3. Koppers kept its hold on the No. 7 spot with a 66 percent advance last year.
Allegheny Technologies, which jumped to the top of the 2006 list with a 151 percent gain, limped home last year, finishing in the No. 29 spot, down nearly 5 percent on the year.
Ampco-Pittsburgh, last year's No. 2, fell to 20th place on a 14 percent rise in the price of its shares. The company, whose products include rolls used by metal producers, posted 2007 profits of $39.2 million, more than double 2006 results.
Given the credit concerns roiling markets, it's not surprising that all but one of the dozen regional banks on the list turned in losing performances. The exception was IBT Bancorp, which placed 12th after its shares rose 31 percent on a takeover bid from S&T Bancorp, of Indiana, Pa. The Irwin bank is being acquired in a cash and stock deal priced at $31 per share. Shares of 39th-placed S&T retreated 20 percent last year.
The weakest performance among financial stocks was turned in by AmeriServ Financial, whose shares fell 44 percent. Evidently investors weren't sufficiently impressed by the Johnstown bank's stronger performance last year, with profits rising 30 percent.
Late-year merger news also provided a shot in the arm to shares of Respironics, which finished sixth with a 73 percent gain. The Murrysville medical equipment maker received a $5.1 billion buyout offer from Dutch conglomerate Royal Philips Electronics in December.
Apparel retailer American Eagle Outfitters had the biggest fall from the previous year. After finishing sixth on last year's Top 50 as its shares doubled in price, the South Side company fell to No. 46 this year. American Eagle shares declined 33 percent because of concerns about how the weakening U.S. economy would hurt retailers.
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Len Boselovic can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1941.