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Business Impact

Investors Tire of Energy, Think Chips Are Fab

Energy stocks performed poorly; semiconductor stocks did well.

Ask anyone who drives a car: gasoline prices are out of control. But that’s no shocker. The price of gas is a function of the price of oil, which, while having retreated from an April high of almost $60 a barrel, is still at a healthy $48. The good news: if the market lives up to its reputation as a dependable portent of the future, there may be more relief in sight, as energy stocks were some of the poorest performers in our indices in the month ending May 13. Every single energy stock in the TR Large-Cap 100 fell during the month, led by a 4.9 percent drop in Shell Transport and Trading (the minority partner in Shell Oil). The same did not hold true in the TR Small-Cap 50, but last month’s focus stock, First Calgary Petroleums, continued its journey downward, falling 14.2 percent.

Semiconductor stocks, on the other hand, are enjoying a deserved reprieve. The top gainers in both indices were chip stocks – Texas Instruments and Japanese upstart Ibiden – but they were joined on the way up by most of their industry brethren. The cause, interestingly, was less a preponderance of good news than a lack of bad news. Chip stocks famously move ahead of fundamental results, and with first-quarter reporting season having passed with no real blowups, many investors are clearly trying to get a leg up on those who wait till the writing’s on the wall.

In April, Clear Channel Communications announced plans to spin off its entertainment and venue-management business and sell a stake in its billboard-advertising division through an initial public offering. Investors were not pleased. Through May 13, the stock was down 25.5 percent from its 52-week high and was the biggest loser in the TR Large-Cap 100 for the month.

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