South Carolina stocks ran with the bulls in 2013

Daniel Island-based Blackbaud Inc. will mark its 10th year as a public company this summer. Its Nasdaq-listed shares climbed by 65 percent in 2013.

Like horns on a bull, the numbers all pointed in the same direction - up - for shares of South Carolina's publicly traded companies in 2013, reflecting the banner year for U.S. stocks.

Finish line

How Charleston stocks finished last year compared with the last closing prices of 2012, in descending order:

Blackbaud: +65%

Bank of S.C:. +48%

Southcoast: +31%

Benefitfocus: +8%

Other S.C. companies

3D Systems: +161%

Regional Mgt.: +105%

First Financial: +65%

Palmetto Bancshares: +56%

Denny's: +47%

Sonoco: +40%

Scansource: +34%

AVX: +29%

First Community: +24%

Delta Apparel: +22%

Oconee Federal: +21%

World Acceptance: +17%

Span America Medical: +16%

Domtar Paper: +13%

Kemet: +12%

Synalloy: +9%

SCANA: +3%

Wall Street Journal; Yahoo Finance

Not one company in this small club ended on a down note.

A fictional $10,000 investment spread evenly across the unsanctioned Palmetto State industrial index last year would have grown to about $13,930 by the time the stock market closed Tuesday afternoon.

This speculative grouping of 21 South Carolina-based employers is limited to those that list their shares on major stock exchanges, namely the Nasdaq and the Big Board.

Just four of those firms are headquartered in the Charleston region, which lost one eligible company in 2013 (bank owner First Financial Holdings moved to the Midlands after getting snapped up by Columbia's SCBT Financial in August) while gaining another (software developer Benefitfocus launched its initial public offering in September).

Leading the pack locally was Blackbaud, the Daniel Island-based business that sells technology products and services to the nonprofit industry. Despite taking a tumble after an Oct. 30 update with Wall Street number crunchers, the Nasdaq issue still managed to appreciate by almost 65 percent last year, according to data from The Wall Street Journal.

Among the three others, the Bank of South Carolina was next, rising 48 percent, while Mount Pleasant-based lender Southcoast Financial closed out its 10th year on the Nasdaq with a 31 percent gain.

Another tech firm rounded out the local foursome: Benefitfocus was up 8 percent from the closing price after its $26-a-share IPO, which was off limits to most ordinary investors.

Elsewhere around the state, investors in Rock Hill's 3D Systems relished the fattest 2013 payoff. Shares of the fast-growing, three-dimensional printing machine maker soared 161 percent to nearly $93 last year, a period when CEO Avi Reichental made Fortune magazine's list of business leaders "who defied expectations, executed big turnarounds, and delivered stellar results for their shareholders."

The only other triple-digit gainer was consumer finance firm Regional Management Corp. The Greenville-based lender's stock more than doubled to almost $34.

The company that posted the tiniest increase also happens to be one of the biggest publicly traded businesses in South Carolina. SCANA Corp., the Cayce-based owner of S.C. Electric & Gas, eked out a gain of less than 3 percent from wire to wire in 2013.

As a whole, Palmetto State stock prices rose about 39.3 percent on average last year.

That was enough to handily beat two of the three major U.S. indexes: The S&P 500 ended up 29.6 percent, for its best year since 1997, while the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average turned in its top performance since 1995 with a 26.5 percent increase.

The unofficial South Carolina equity yardstick finished roughly neck-and-neck with the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite and the Russell 2000, which tracks smaller firms that tend to benefit from a strengthening U.S. economy.

Of course, it isn't wise to risk hard-earned dollars in a narrow, state-focused investment strategy. But once a year it can be fun to keep score.

Reach John McDermott at 937-5572.

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