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    Arkansas Business: Stocks continue to sink into new year

    7:13 AM, Jan 7, 2014   |    comments
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    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The S&P notched its worst start to a year in almost a decade on Monday, closing lower for the third straight trading day.

    The declines for stocks in the New Year have been modest, but the direction has been consistently down.

    The S&P has now fallen 1.2 percent from its most recent record close on Dec. 31.

    The performance is a contrast to last year, when the S&P 500 surged almost 30 percent, its best annual gain since 1997.

    The banner year ended with the stock market climbing to record levels amid signs that the economy was strengthening.

    Results of the state economic report

    Metroplan yesterday released its annual "Economic Review and Outlook" report.

    The annual report takes a look at business and economic conditions in the central Arkansas metro region of Pulaski, Faulkner, Saline and Lonoke counties.

    It said the region last year experienced slow but steady economic growth and even an increase in the number of young adults seeking homes in the urban core of the area, mainly downtown Little Rock.

    The report also showed the region slightly behind the U.S. in terms of economic growth but ahead of the rest of the state, as well as accelerated growth over last year.

    Regional housing construction was up as well over the first half of 2013, led by 35 percent growth in Cabot and 16 percent growth in Benton.

    Baptist Health seeks new ways to grow

    CEO Russ Harrington taking to Arkansas Business this week and says that while the Affordable Care Act has caused hospital systems a lot of uncertainty, Baptist plans to be proactive in seeking new growth.

    Baptist has taken on a 72-bed hospital in Malvern, the former Hot Spring Medical Center.

    The deal helps the Malvern hospital save up to 15 percent on supplies by switching to Baptist's supplier and it builds Baptists' relationships to more physicians can refer patients to Baptist hospitals.

    Also Baptist plans this year to begin work on a new, 100-bed hospital in Conway.

    All this, as hospitals face the loss of billions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements because of health reform.

    Hospitals like Baptist are hoping to replace that revenue through expansion and by partnering with larger health care networks to share, and ultimately save, costs.

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