ADM's stock has soared in recent months; its total return in 2005 was 12.25 percent. Earnings per share more than doubled in its last fiscal year. In the process, it hurtled from 17th position on the chart to 12th. The stock ended last week at $40.20, up 80 percent since the beginning of 2005.
Although ADM proved to be the prize puppy among energy-related stocks in the Tribune chart last year, Chicago investment manager Doug Nardi is unsure about prospects for commodity-oriented companies in the months ahead. He thinks they are due for a correction.
As for ethanol, "it is a niche product, and it's not all that difficult to ramp up production," he added.
Sharing in the boom for ethanol and agricultural commodities has been Deere & Co., its stock tied firmly to the fortunes of grain plantings across the Midwest.
The Moline-based maker of tractors and other farm equipment, however, saw its total return turn slightly negative last year. It slipped from 13th in the chart to 14th.
Outpacing Deere has been Caterpillar Inc., the Peoria-based maker of bulldozers and earthmoving gear and equipment needed for mining. It moved up from eighth position to fifth in the Tribune chart, on the back of soaring global demand. Its total return last year was nearly 21 percent.
Caterpillar stock ended last week at $72.78, up 49 percent since the beginning of 2005.
High prices for a wide gamut of commodities "have prompted a boom in exploration. Companies that provide mining equipment and engineering expertise are enjoying a surge in business," said Chicago economist Carl Tannenbaum of LaSalle Bank.
A big local winner was Tellabs, which strengthened its position in the global market for phone and networking equipment. The Naperville-based company jumped 12 spaces in the Tribune chart, to 26th from 38th. Its total return for the year was nearly 27 percent.
A former technology darling that encountered tough times was Zebra Technologies, the Vernon Hills-based maker of computerized product tracking systems. Its total return for last year was sharply negative.
Two relative newcomers to the Tribune chart, Chicago Mercantile Exchange Holdings Inc. and CBOT Holdings Inc., immediately made their way far above the middle of the pack. The Merc ranked No. 15 in market capitalization, up from 24th last year. And the Board of Trade, which went public late last year, ranked 30th.
The Merc's shares showed a total return of nearly 62 percent for last year. No similar number could be computed for the Board of Trade, which had not traded for a full 12 months.
Food companies have been among the local losers. Kraft Foods Inc. fell from second to fourth place in the Tribune chart, dogged by problems similar to those of Sara Lee Corp., which slipped to 17th from 14th. Both have seen consumer resistance to branded varieties of food eaten in the home. And both showed a negative total return for 2005.
In contrast, McDonald's Corp., the Oak Brook-based fast-food giant, saw its stock rise to a 6-year high. Its position in the Tribune chart, however, slipped to seventh from sixth. Yet it showed a total return for the year of more than 7 percent.
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