Foreign tire stocks outside Japan performed much better during 1997 than their Japanese counterparts. Finland's Nokian Tyres Ltd. topped the list of companies whose stock price rose during 1997.
Nokian shares on Dec. 31 closed at $31.90—73-percent above their closing price the previous year.
Also among top gainers were*Pirelli S.p.A. of Italy, whose stock rose 68 percent during the 12-month period, and Continental A.G. of Germany, with a 43.3-percent climb.
On the other side, reflecting Japan's economic uncertainty, domestic tire manufacturers led the list of firms with declining stock prices from the previous year.
Ohtsu Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. stock closed at $1.31, a decrease of 57.3 percent from its 1996 closing price. Meanwhile, Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.'s stock declined 44.4 percent; Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.'s was down 39.3 percent; and Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd.'s fell 36.2 percent.
Bridgestone Corp. shares were unscathed by the overall decline in the Japanese stock market, rising a healthy 28.6 percent during 1997.
Securities analyst Noriaki Hirakata of Morgan Stanley Inc. in Tokyo said Japanese buyers have preferred the stock of large, globalized companies, such as Bridgestone, that have profitable manufacturing operations offshore.
The analyst expects Bridgestone shares to outperform those of the company's smaller, more domestically dependent competitors—some of which may fail to keep pace with the Japanese stock market as a whole.
Of particular concern to the tire maker are currently slumping sales of snow tires prompted by a mild winter, according to Hirakata.
Under typical winter conditions, snow tires can account for 30 percent of Japan's replacement passenger tire sales, he said.