The stock market took Tampa Bay's largest companies on a wild ride in 2018

Only three of the companies finished up for the year. One saw its stock price cut in half.
The stock market bull
The stock market bull
Published Jan. 3, 2019

Last year was tough for many stock investors. Even the ones that came out ahead likely suffered some heartburn as prices vacillated more often than a politician caught in a fib.

And most didn't come out ahead. The S&P 500 was down almost 8 percent in 2018, about the same as the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The turbulence infected the stock prices of the Tampa Bay area's largest publicly traded companies. Both the winners and losers experienced big swings during the year.

Take Kforce, the staffing agency based in Tampa. Its stock price ended 2018 up almost 19 percent, the best performance among the local companies listed below. But in August it was up nearly 66 percent before tailing off in the back half of the year. Good on anyone with the vision to sell at the peak.

Preserve more wilderness. It's good for business.

Tech Data might have had the wildest year. The Clearwater-based technology and software distributor finished down about 18 percent, not too dramatic until you look at how it got there. It was a tale of three days: On March 8, the stock price hit $100 in early trading and then fell almost $14 to finish at $86.40.

Fast forward to August 30. The stock plunged another 14 percent after the company failed to meet analysts' expectations for sales and profit.

"It's an opportunity moving forward to go get it back," Tech Data's new CEO Rich Hume told me at the time.

Q&A: Meet the new CEO of Tampa Bay's largest company.

Then came Nov. 29. The stock soared on good earnings news, finishing up 22 percent from where it closed the day before.

For others like staffing company Sykes Enterprises and Bloomin' Brands, the parent company of Outback Steakhouse and other restaurant chains, it was more of a slow bleed, with a quicker plunge near the end of the year, when the overall stock market tanked.

Of the 11 local companies, only three posted gains — KForce, WellCare Health Plans and Mosaic, the fertilizer producer which moved its headquarters to downtown Tampa in 2018.

Who is Mosaic? A primer on the Fortune 500 company.

WellCare's move helped it become the most valuable on the list, worth more than $11.5 billion, ahead of Mosaic at $11.2 billion. Raymond James had started the year at No. 1, but its stock price tumbled 16 percent, shedding more than $1.7 billion in value. It's now worth about $9.6 billion.

One other company beat the S&P 500 — high-tech manufacturer Jabil — but only barely, ending down by more than 7 percent.

Pasco County-based Welbilt, which manufactures food service equipment, had the worst year. It's stock price was cut in half, finishing at a little over $11 a share.

Contact Graham Brink at or . Follow @GrahamBrink.

Stock prices: How Tampa Bay's companies fared during a tumultuous year.

A quick look at 11 of the largest companies headquartered in the Tampa Bay area, including year-end stock price and the high and low during the year.

The winner:

KForce (KFRC)

Price: $30.92

Up 18.92 percent

High: $43.15

Low: $24.15

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The staffing company had the biggest overall increase for the year, but it came with a big swing. In August, the price was up nearly 66 percent on the year before a steep four-month decline brought it back to reality.

Two others posted gains for the year:

Wellcare (WCG)

Price: $236.09

Up 16.5 percent

High: $321.88

Low: $188.41

The healthcare company saw its price drop a little at the beginning of the year, before it took off in April, hitting highs in October. Later in the year, it tumbled along with so many other U.S. stocks.

Mosaic Co. (MOS)

Price: $29.21

Up 9.61 percent

High: $36.99

Low: $23.57

Mosaic joined the list after announcing in May that it would move its headquarters to Hillsborough County, eventually settling on the Bank of America Plaza in downtown Tampa.

Eight were down for the year:

Jabil Inc. (JBL)

Price: $24.76

Down 7.15 percent

High: $31.37

Low: $21.56

The high-tech manufacturer was up in the early part of the year and steady through the summer before experiencing a big drop in late September into October. In December, the stock price shot up 10 percent in one day after beating revenue and earnings expectations.

Cott Corp. (COT)

Price: $13.94

Down 16.02 percent

High: $17.25

Low: $13.44

The beverage maker and distributor's stock price peaked in January, had a rough spring followed by a strong recovery before falling steadily in the last half of the year.

Raymond James (RJF)

Price: $74.41

Down 16.26 percent

High: $100.64

Low: $72.85

The financial services company's stock price bounced around in the first half of the year before dropping $25 in the October swoon that dented a lot of companies.

Bloomin' Brands (BLMN)

Price: $17.89

Down 17.71 percent

High: $24.80

Low: $17.21

Bloomin's Outback restaurants had a solid year, but the company's other chains including Carrabba's and Bonefish Grill didn't perform as well.

Tech Data (TECD)

Price: $81.81

Down 17.99 percent

High: $107.62

Low: $67.97

What a ride! In some ways, the wildest of any of the Tampa Bay companies. The technology and software distributor saw a big one-day plunge in March. Another big one-day plunge in August and a huge one-day increase in late November.

Sykes Enterprises (SYKE)

Price: $24.73

Down 21.12 percent

High: $31.89

Low: $22.86

The staffing and customer service company's share price was fairly steady for much of the year. Then came November and December. The price crumbled, hitting its 2018 low on Dec. 24. Since then, it's up more than 5 percent.

Masonite (DOOR)

Price: $44.83

Down 39.54 percent

High: $74.85

Low: $44.52

The door manufacturer had a tough year. The stock price started off poorly, recovered a bit in the early summer then took a steady fall to its year-long low.

The year's stock price loser:

Welbilt (WBT)

Price: $11.11

Down 52.44 percent

High: $23.60

Low: $10.82

The food service equipment manufacturer saw its price drop steadily in the last part of the year, including a big one-day drop in November when the company missed earnings expectations.