Lower prices for oil, gas and other com­modi­ties, com­bined with food qual­ity prob­lems at Chipo­tle Mex­i­can Grill, pushed an in­dex of Colorado stocks to its worst show­ing since the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Aldo Svaldi

Low oil prices and food­borne ill­nesses push the Colorado in­dex to its worst year since the 2008 cri­sis.

Colorado stocks in 2015 suf­fered their worst year since the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, weighed down by weak com­mod­ity prices and a sick­en­ing sit­u­a­tion at Chipo­tle Mex­i­can Grill. The Bloomberg Colorado in­dex, which tracks 75 pub­lic com­pa­nies based in the state, de­clined 17.4 per­cent in 2015, a per­for­mance that se­verely lagged be­hind the larger mar­ket.

The S& P 500, which was still pos­i­tive for the year as re­cently as Wed­nes­day, ended 2015 down 0.73 per­cent, its worst show­ing since 2008. The Dow Jones in­dus­trial av­er­age was down 2.23 per­cent, while the Nasdaq com­pos­ite rose 5.73 per­cent.

“Most mar­ket in­dexes showed small losses for 2015, but this masked the bru­tal bear mar­ket in­many stocks im­pacted by oil prices be­low $ 40 a bar­rel,” said Fred Tay­lor, pres­i­dent of North­star In­vest­ment Ad­vi­sors in Den­ver.

Sim­i­lar to 2008, in­vestors had few places to hide, with ev­ery as­set class ei­ther neg­a­tive or up only slightly, Tay­lor said.

An ex­cep­tion were two nar­row groups of eight stocks, known as FANG and NOSH, that in­clude Face­book, Ama­zon, Net­flix and Google. In­vestors piled into the pop­u­lar names in such large num­bers that those stocks held up the over­all mar­ket.

Colorado lacked any of the hottest names. It didn’t help mat­ters when shares of Den­ver- based fast- ca­sual chain Chipo­tle, a long­time fa­vorite of in­vestors, fell 29.9 per­cent af­ter E. coli and norovirus out­breaks sick­ened hun­dreds of cus­tomers.

The Bloomberg Colorado In­dex is price- weighted, mean­ing high­er­priced stocks have more in­flu­ence. Chipo­tle shares, which ended the year at $ 479.85, ac­count for about a fifth of the in­dex’s weight.

Colorado’s com­pany mix skews heav­ily to­ward nat­u­ral re­sources. The big drop in oil prices to be­low $ 40 a bar­rel ham­mered most petroleum pro­duc­ers, while lower metal and coal prices pushed down min­ing stocks.

Emer­ald Oil, the worst per­former in the state last year among the petroleum com­pa­nies still left stand­ing, lost 95.3 per­cent. Mag­el­lan Petroleum fell 92.5 per­cent.

The trou­bles in oil and gas spilled over to al­ter­na­tive en­ergy. Real Goods So­lar shares shed 93.5 per­cent, and shares of bio­fuel maker Gevo lost 87.1 per­cent.

More than two dozen Colorado stocks dropped by more than half, but about 30 per­cent man­aged to

show pos­i­tive re­turns.

The bright­est star in an oth­er­wise dark year for Colorado’s pub­lic com­pa­nies was Heska Corp., a Love­land maker of di­ag­nos­tic tests and treat­ments for an­i­mals. Its shares rose 113.3 per­cent.

“We had great new prod­ucts, and we are launch­ing them through a cul­ture that has been strong for a long time and that we are build­ing on,” said Ja­son Napoli­tano, Heska’s chief op­er­at­ing and fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer.

Heksa’s med­i­cal imag­ing prod­ucts con­tin­ued to sell well, and the HT5, a new blood analyzer that re­quires smaller sam­ples than ri­vals’ prod­ucts, proved pop­u­lar with cus­tomers.

Af­ter Heska came Colorado Springs- based gam­ing op­er­a­tor Cen­tury Casi­nos, whose shares were up 54.1 per­cent.

Core Site Realty, a Den­ver based real es­tate in­vest­ment trust that spe­cial­izes in data cen­ters; Merid­ian- based com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech firm CSG Sys­tems In­ter­na­tional; and Broom­field- based ski re­sort op­er­a­tor Vail Re­sorts all had 40 per­cent plus gains in share value.

Chipo­tle shares, which ended the year at $ 479.85, fell 29.9 per­cent af­ter E. coli and norovirus out­breaks sick­ened cus­tomers. Don Ryan, AP

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