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Tickers in this Article: CMLP, HNP, MWE, DPM, TCP, WPZ, ETE
So far today, the Nasdaq has slipped 0.8%, the S&P 500 is trading down 0.2% and the Dow has climbed 0.4%. The utilities sector is a category of stocks for utilities such as gas and power. It contains companies such as electric, gas and water firms and integrated providers. Because utilities require significant infrastructure, these firms often carry large amounts of debt. With a high debt load, utilities companies become sensitive to changes in the interest rate. As interest rates rise or drop, the debt payments will increase or decrease. The utilities sector performs best when interest rates are falling or remain low.

The biggest movers in the Utilities sector (XLU) (+0.4%) are:
CompanyMarket CapPercentage Change
Crestwood Midstream Partners LP (NYSE:CMLP)$1.17 billion-5.4%
Huaneng Power International, Inc. (ADR) (NYSE:HNP)$10.23 billion-3.7%
Markwest Energy Partners LP (NYSE:MWE)$6.43 billion-2%
DCP Midstream Partners, LP (NYSE:DPM)$2.21 billion-1.8%
TC Pipelines, LP (NYSE:TCP)$2.36 billion+1.7%
Williams Partners L.P. (NYSE:WPZ)$16.96 billion-1.7%
Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. (NYSE:ETE)$11.83 billion-1.6%
Software Summary: Finviz.com Stock Screener

At $25.54, Crestwood Midstream (NYSE:CMLP) has slipped 5.4%. This morning, the company is trading a volume of two million shares. Volume is used to evaluate how meaningful the price movement of a stock is. A wide array of ratios can be used by investors to estimate the attractiveness of a potential or existing investment and get an idea of its valuation. The price/earnings ratio is calculated by taking a stock price and dividing it by the earnings-per-share (EPS). CMLP has a P/E ratio of 33.0, high compared to the industry average of 27.83. Usually, if a stock has a high P/E ratio, it indicates that the market expects the company to grow earnings quickly in the future. From the investor's perspective, a stock with a lower ratio is relatively cheaper than a stock with a higher ratio. SEE: Can Investors Trust the P/E Ratio?

Huaneng Power International, Inc (NYSE:HNP) has fallen 3.7% and is currently trading at $28.03 per share. With 39,500 shares changing hands so far today, the company's volume is 0.4 times its current three-month average. If a stock is trading on low volume, then there is not much interest in the stock. On the other hand, if a stock is trading on high volume, then there is a lot of interest in the stock. Valuation ratios allow the investor to make a quick determination as to a company's investment value. The price/earnings to growth (PEG) ratio can reveal value what price/earnings (P/E) ratios alone may not so that if a company has a high P/E ratio (an indication that its stock is overpriced) but its earnings are growing very quickly, the PEG ratio may reveal that the company is actually fairly valued, or perhaps even a bargain. HNP has a PEG ratio of 26.29. While P/E ratios are important indicators of market value, a high P/E in and of itself is not bad because it may indicate a company whose earnings are growing very rapidly, so many investors look at the PEG ratio in order to get an idea of whether or not a particular P/E ratio is justified by underlying earnings growth.

Markwest Energy (NYSE:MWE) is trading at $51.38 per share, down 2%. The company's volume is currently 187,357 shares. At this rate, trading activity will likely be down from yesterday when 494,106 shares changed hands. Volume is an important indicator in technical analysis as it is used to measure the worth of a market move. If the markets have made a strong price move either up or down the perceived strength of that move depends on the volume for that period. The higher the volume during that price move the more significant the move. Investment valuation ratios can be very useful in determining the value of a stock, but it is very important to keep in mind that while some financial ratios have general rules (or a broad application), in most instances it is a prudent practice to look at a company's historical performance and use peer company/industry comparisons to put any given company's ratio in perspective. The debt ratio gives users a quick measure of the amount of debt that the company has on its balance sheets compared to its assets. The debt ratio for MWE is 59.9%. However, one thing to note with this ratio: it isn't a pure measure of a company's debt (or indebtedness), as it also includes operational liabilities, such as accounts payable and taxes payable.

After a decline of 1.8%, DCP Midstream (NYSE:DPM) has hit a share price of $41.59. At 79,167 shares, the company's volume so far today is 0.9 times the current daily average. If a stock price moves on high volume, this means that the change is a significant one. Investment valuation ratios provide investors with an estimation, albeit a simplistic one, of the value of a stock. Dividend yield measures the income that a stock will generate for an investor. DPM has a dividend yield of 6.2%. High dividend yields are generally more important to value investors, investors in larger companies, and income oriented investors than they are to growth investors, investors in small cap stocks, and investors in new or emerging companies. SEE: Dividend Yield For The Downturn

TC (NYSE:TCP) is up 1.7% to reach a current price of $44.89 per share. So far today, the company's volume is 30,237 shares. High volume indicates a lot of investor interest while low volume indicates the opposite. Looking at a company's valuation ratios is a good way of getting a basic idea as to its value as an investment. A price/sales ratio is derived by dividing stock market price by company sales. TCP's P/S ratio of 34.85 is on the high side. This could be a good sign if the share price increases. All things being equal, a low P/S ratio is good news for investors, while a very high one can be a warning sign.

Currently trading at $52.76 per share, Williams Partners (NYSE:WPZ) has fallen 1.7%. The company's volume for the day so far is 123,832 shares, 0.3 times the current three-month average. A stock's volume conveys how excited investors are about it. A company's value as an investment is more easily estimated using valuation ratios such as the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio, the price to sales (P/S) ratio, the price to book (P/B) ratio, and the dividend yield. The price/book value ratio, often expressed simply as "price-to-book", provides investors a way to compare the market value, or what they are paying for each share, to a conservative measure of the value of the firm. The P/B ratio for WPZ is 2.67, indicating that the stock is trading for more than its book value. This may be a sign that the company is overvalued. Users need to be careful when applying this ratio though, as it is more useful for industrial companies that have a lot of tangible assets than it is for technology or consumer product companies that may not have much in the way of hard assets. SEE: How Buybacks Warps The Price-To-Book Ratio

Slipping 1.6%, Energy Transfer Equity (NYSE:ETE) is currently trading at $41.58 per share. The company is trading at a volume of 97,054 shares. At this rate, trading activity will likely be down from yesterday when 312,728 shares changed hands. When a stock price moves up or down, watching the volume is a good way of identifying how significant that shift is. While investment valuation ratios are useful tools in estimating the attractiveness of an investment, remember that it is important to look at a company's historical performance and compare the company ratios with its competitors and industry overall. The debt-equity (D/E) ratio is a leverage ratio. ETE has a D/E ratio of 722%, which is relatively high. This shows that the company's assets are financed primarily through debt. This easy-to-calculate ratio provides a general indication of a company's equity-liability relationship and is helpful to investors looking for a quick take on a company's leverage.

The Bottom Line On any given day, a particular stock may see positive or negative change in its share price. Paying close attention to the previous ratios will help you identify key times to adjust your strategy. Keep in mind that all these ratios should be compared against historical numbers and industry information in order to get a more complete picture.

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