Georgia Gulf, Westlake Chemical slip
The Associated Press reports that share of chemical companies Georgia Gulf Corp. and Westlake Chemical Corp. dropped in trading late last week after UBS downgraded both companies on concerns that a housing slowdown could affect demand for polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a key building material. UBS analyst Jeffrey Cianci downgraded both companies to "Neutral" from "Buy," while cutting his 2007 earnings-per-share projections on softer PVC outlook. In a pair of research notes, he said 70 percent of PVC demand is construction-related, and UBS recently lowered its 2007 housing-starts forecast. The Commerce Department reported sales of new homes dropped in July by the largest amount since February. PVC makers have also been struggling to push through two price increases, with August PVC sales down 5 percent, he wrote. Atlanta-based Georgia Gulf''s stock fell $1.79, or 6.8 percent, to $24.41 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange, where it has traded between $21.40 and $34.65 over the past year. Houston-based Westlake Chemical''s shares, meanwhile, fell $1.06, or 3.6 percent, to $28.26 on the NYSE. Its stock has traded between $25.35 and $37.34 over the past year.