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Stocks down, caution up at Tampa-St. Pete businesses amid coronavirus concerns

Margie Manning



Photo credit: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

An investor who is bullish on the future of the largest public companies headquartered in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area might have reason to turn bearish.

On Monday, the worst trading day in more than 10 years, nearly every local public company saw a drop in stock price, ranging from a nearly 10 percent decline for Kforce (Nasdaq: KFRC), a Tampa staffing company, to a fraction of a percent at Seminole-based Superior Group of Companies (Nasdaq: SGC) and Masonite International (NYSE: DOOR), a door manufacturer headquartered in Tampa.

A hypothetical portfolio made up of 100 shares of each of the 19 largest local companies declined by $1,807 on Monday.

Here’s a look at how the stocks of local public companies with a market capitalization of more than $100 million performed on March 9.

“Investors are anxiously monitoring the news as worries about the spread of COVID-19 [coronavirus] along with the decline in oil prices have the stock markets reacting wildly,” St. Petersburg-based financial services firm Raymond James Financial (NYSE: RJF), said in a commentary posted on its website.

Raymond James cited an unscheduled rate cut from the Federal Reserve, a brief trading hiatus for the New York Stock Exchange , and constant news about the growing numbers of individuals infected with coronavirus as factors that perpetuate fear.

Raymond James is among a number of companies that are taking steps to protect their workforce. The firm is suspending all non-essential international and domestic business travel until further notice. Additionally, all Raymond James-hosted conferences planned for the next 30 days have been cancelled or postponed, a news release said.

Tech Data (Nasdaq: TECD), a Clearwater-based IT distributor, also has significantly restricted travel and is requiring employees to work from home if they have traveled to, through or from mainland China or Red Zones in northern Italy – or have had any direct contact with others who have.  Visitors will be to disclose recent travel history before checking into any Tech Data facility, a news release said.

University of South Florida-sanctioned international travel for spring break has been canceled, the school said.  There have been no coronavirus cases within the USF community at this time, President Steve Currall told trustees at a meeting Tuesday morning. Should that change, the university could consider transitioning to online classes, university officials said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday declared a state of emergency statewide.

A state of emergency permits establishment of a unified command structure and allows the governor to direct funds as necessary for critical supplies, equipment and personnel needs. The order also allows out-of-state medical professionals to practice in Florida for the duration of the order, and permits pharmacists to prescribe up to a 30-day emergency refill of prescription drugs as needed.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 20 positive cases of coronavirus in Florida, and two people have died. There were no diagnosed cases in Pinellas County as of Tuesday morning, but there was one case in Hillsborough County and two cases in Manatee County, according to the Florida Department of Health.

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