The majority of Iowa’s publicly traded companies gained ground in 2019, as the wider U.S. stock market continued surging higher.  

Thirteen of Iowa’s 20 public companies ended the year with gains in their stock prices, led by Forest City-based Winnebago Industries Inc. with a 118% share price gain for the year. Nine companies posted double-digit percentage gains and three had single-digit percentage gains.

Seven of Iowa’s public companies ended the year with losses, led by specialty pharmaceutical company KemPharm Inc. with a 78.65% share price loss for the year. In 2018, KemPharm also ended the year down, by 56.05%. Five companies posted double-digit percentage losses in 2019 and one had a single-digit loss.

The leading stock in 2018 turned out the smallest gain in share price in 2019. After recording a nearly 118% price gain in 2018, Ames-based biodiesel producer Renewable Energy Group was up 4.86% in 2019. The second leading stock in 2019, Ames-based NewLink Genetics Corp., announced on Sept. 30 that it had entered an agreement to merge with Texas-based Lumos Pharma. Newlink was up 66.45% in 2019, but in 2018 it had the largest loss at 81.26%.

Greater Des Moines’ largest home-based public company, Principal Financial Group Inc., ended the year with its share price up 10.83 points, a 24.52% increase for the year.

The Iowa Index, an unweighted average of 20 Iowa-based public companies, reflected the overall bull market, gaining 10.77% for the year. Of note, the Iowa Index decreased by one public company after EMC Insurance Group Inc. announced on Sept. 18 that shareholders voted to approve taking the company private. By comparison, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 22.34% in 2019 while the Nasdaq was up 35.23%. 

Compared with a decade ago, the Iowa Index was up 102% at year-end 2019, underperforming the Dow Jones industrial average percentage gain of 173% for the 10 years, and well short of the Nasdaq’s 295% gain. West Bancorporation Inc. turned in the best 10-year performance among the 20 Iowa-based companies, more than quadrupling its price with a 419% share price gain.