TABLE D'HOTE: Taking stock

Wade McIntyre

“My sober and considered judgment is that at this stage Federal aid would be a disservice to the unemployed.” - President Herbert Hoover, 1932 State of the Union Address

Normally I don’t spend any time with the stock market listings. The type is small and I have a short attention span for data with lots of numbers.

But, Saturday I read one of the area dailies from cover to cover and the stock page list headlined “Stocks of Louisiana Interest” caught my eye. Of the many dozens of companies listed, virtually all have suffered significant loss in the value of their stock this year.

International Paper Company, a Lantern Award winner this year for the  success of the Bastrop plant, has seen its stock value drop 65.8 percent. When IPC announced the closure of the plant Thursday due to the weak global economy, the stock went up 6.8 percent on the news. Maybe IPC shareholders were happy they don’t have workers to pay in Bastrop anymore.

You’ve heard of Entergy. The energy provider recently put the brakes on plans to start up America’s first stand-alone nuclear generating company. It’s stock is down on the year by 28.2 percent.

Not sure why Domino Pizza was on a Louisiana stock list, but it is a little shocking to see their stock down 77.1 percent. Are people taking home more frozen pizza?

McDermott International, the offshore giant out of New Orleans??Down 87.5 percent. Hornbeck Offshore Services? Down 69.7 percent. Murphy Oil Corp.? Down 50.2 percent, but its mothership, Wal-Mart is up 11.3 percent.

The Shaw Group, with a big presence in Baton Rouge? Down 77 percent on the year. Tanger Factory? Down 27.8 for the year, but looking good compared to Dillards Inc., which is down 85.2 percent.

Lamar Advertising? Down 77.1 percent in an election year.

WendyArbys Group’s stock is down 63.6 percent. Have people cut back on fast food that much?

I wasn’t surprised that most publicly traded banks in the state are suffering. Not so at Iberiabank Corp., which is up 6.2 percent.

Halliburton leaves a big footprint in Louisiana. Vice-president Dick Cheney’s favorite stock is down 59.6 percent.

In a Ripley’s Believe It or Not category, ExxonMobil Corp. stock is down 19.1 percent. The giant made almost $15 billion in just three months last summer, the most profit of any corporation in history. How could it lose almost a fifth of its stock value in a year of record breaking profits? Was it fear of pirates? Excessive smoking of big cigars? We know it didn’t use any of its windfall profits to develop and market new oil sources.

After looking at all the stock value carnage in Louisiana companies of interest, I cannot help feeling  grateful the Bush Administration was torpedoed in its attempt to privatize Social Security.

If Americans had been forced to invest in the stock market instead of receiving Social Security benefits, there would be many more homes in America without a Thanksgiving turkey this year.

Happily, smarter people than President Bush - including most working Louisianans - prevailed in opposition to the privatization issue. It’s something to take stock on when giving thanks this Thanksgiving Day.