After sputtering through 2012, the Buffalo Portfolio is off to a rip-roaring start in 2013.
Not only are the stocks of the publicly traded companies based in the Buffalo Niagara region doing better than the overall market this year, but the good fortune has been remarkably widespread among the 21 stocks that make up the Buffalo Portfolio.
A portfolio that owned a single share in each of those stocks would have gained 12.4 percent during the first quarter, slightly better than the Dow Jones industrial average’s 11.3 percent jump into record territory, and stronger than the gains by the other benchmark indexes.
It was a dramatic reversal for the Buffalo Portfolio, whose gains for all of last year were a mere 5 percent – just a third of the overall market’s rise. And it was the best quarter for the local stocks since the final three months of 2011.
“We started off like a jack rabbit,” said Christopher Carosa, who runs the Bullfinch Family of mutual funds, including a fund that focuses on stocks with operations in the Buffalo and Rochester areas.
“The local stocks have definitely done well,” Carosa said. “After last year, it definitely makes me feel better about the local companies.”
Just as notable was the broad nature of the gains. All but two of the local stocks – Synacor Inc. and Taylor Devices – went up during the quarter, and four of the region’s stocks managed to post gains that topped 27 percent, led by Cleveland BioLab’s 47 percent rebound. Two out of three local stocks turned in a market-beating gain that topped 11 percent.
No stock beat the market more than Cleveland BioLabs, whose shares have been hammered mercilessly over the past two years because of uncertainty over whether the Buffalo life sciences company would be able to secure the government funding it was counting on to finish crucial clinical trials to determine how safe and effective its anti-radiation-sickness drug is.
Cleveland BioLabs shares, which tumbled by 60 percent in 2011 and lost another 53 percent last year, regained some of its lost ground during the first quarter, after the company said it was making progress developing a plan for its final clinical studies that satisfied federal drug regulators.
Cleveland BioLabs is seeking around $50 million from federal agencies to fund the final stages of development for its Entolimod anti-radiation-sickness drug. The company in mid-October submitted a proposal for major clinical trial funding to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which has been a key source of funds in the past, but it is still waiting for a response.
To hedge their bets, company executives also have said the company is pursuing “potential partnerships” with other drugmakers and biotechnology firms to fund its drug development efforts, especially if BARDA declines to provide additional funding.
Astronics Corp. had the second-best quarter, gaining 30 percent to partially recover some of the losses the stock suffered last year, when it lost a quarter of its value. This quarter, though, Astronics shares were bolstered by a 9 percent increase in the company’s fourth-quarter profits and expectations from the company’s top executives that demand for its cabin electronics products, which allow passengers to charge their laptops and other electronic devices during a flight, would remain strong among its commercial airline customers.
Close behind was Rand Capital Corp., the small Buffalo venture capital firm whose shares trade at a steep discount to the underlying value of its investments.
Rand’s shares jumped by 29 percent, although they still trade at a nearly 25 percent discount to the reported $25.8 million value of its assets at the end of last year. The gap narrowed this month after Rand reported that the value of its assets grew by 7 percent during the final three months of last year.
Another medical industry company, Greatbatch Inc., also had a strong quarter, with its shares jumping by 29 percent, as the battery and medical component maker unveiled the first medical device that it has ever developed entirely on its own.
Greatbatch chief executive Thomas Hook said the Algostim implantable spinal cord neurostimulator that the company developed to ease chronic pain in patients that can’t get relief through medication and other conventional therapies is the first product to emerge from its five-year, $50 million initiative to develop proprietary medical devices.
The initiative is aimed at pushing Greatbatch into a more lucrative market that can take advantage of the technology that the company has developed over the years, while also broadening its business beyond its traditional focus on making components for cardiac rhythm management products.
“In a public company, growth is of paramount importance,” Hook said. “This will help us grow faster than the underlying market.”
On the downside, Synacor’s long and painful slide continued, with the Buffalo Internet content provider’s shares plunging by 45 percent.
Synacor, which was flying high in the first few months following its 2011 initial public offering, has been in a freefall since last summer, as restrictions have expired that kept insiders and longtime investors from selling shares and the company’s growth has cooled, disappointing investors who were expecting much faster increases in sales. The shares now trade for almost 40 percent less than Synacor’s IPO price of $5.