News in brief

Ex-commerce chief plans advisory group

Former Arkansas Commerce Secretary Mike Preston is moving into the state's private sector and will join Stephens Inc. to start a new business advisory group at the Little Rock investment bank.

Preston served eight years, leading the state's economic development efforts under Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

At Stephens, he will start a new Site & Incentive Advisory practice, the company announced Wednesday. The group will advise businesses on their growth strategies by helping them navigate the site-selection process.

"Mike has built considerable expertise in understanding what is important to a company seeking to expand geographically," said Brad Eichler, executive vice president and head of investment banking at Stephens. "This expertise includes not only site selection but a thorough understanding of the workforce and incentive programs. We believe this expertise will be beneficial to clients throughout the country."

-- Andrew Moreau

LR, Conway banks to air results today

Bank OZK of Little Rock and Home BancShares Inc. of Conway are scheduled to report fourth-quarter and year-end 2022 earnings today.

Home BancShares will be first, releasing earnings before the stock market opens. Bank management is scheduled to hold a conference call at 1 p.m. today to discuss the results.

The call is available through the bank's investor relations site or by calling 1-844-200-6205, passcode: 794589. A replay of the call will be available for one week, also through the website or by calling 1-866-813-9403, passcode: 384771.

Bank OZK is scheduled to release earnings after the stock market closes. Its management call is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. The call also is available through the bank's investor relations site.

Bank OZK shares fell $1.46, or 3.5% to close Wednesday at $40.15. Shares have traded as low as $34.79 and as high as $50 over the past year. Home BancShares Inc. fell 59 cents, or 2.6% to close at $22.53. The shares have traded as low as $19.83 and as high as $26.20, over the past year.

-- Andrew Moreau

Index sheds 4.65 to finish at 813.15

The Arkansas Index, a price-weighted index that tracks the largest public companies based in the state, closed Wednesday at 813.15, down 4.65.

"The market narrative appears to be shifting as disinflationary economic data reported early in the day resulted in economic growth concerns as stocks dropped led by the consumer staples and utilities sectors," said Leon Lants, managing director at Stephens Inc.

Shares of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. rose 5% to lead the index Wednesday. ArcBest Corp. shares rose 1.2%.

The index was developed by Bloomberg News and the Democrat-Gazette with a base value of 100 as of Dec. 30, 1997.