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Tickers in this Article: NGG, BKH, VVC, NWN, ELP, ETE, UNS
On a bad day for the market, the Nasdaq has fallen 0.7%, the S&P 500 has declined 0.7% and the Dow has slipped 0.8%. 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.

Despite a bad day for the market overall so far, the Utilities sector (XLU) is up 0.3% and its biggest movers are currently:
CompanyMarket CapPercentage Change
National Grid plc (ADR) (NYSE:NGG).35 billion-2.7%
Black Hills Corp (NYSE:BKH).42 billion+2.1%
Vectren Corporation (NYSE:VVC).46 billion+2%
Northwest Natural Gas Co (NYSE:NWN).29 billion+2%
Companhia Paranaense de Energia (ADR) (NYSE:ELP).71 billion-1.7%
Energy Transfer Equity, L.P. (NYSE:ETE).73 billion+1.6%
UniSource Energy Corp. (NYSE:UNS).66 billion+1.5%
Broker Summary: E-Trade Financial

After a decline of 2.7%, National Grid plc (NYSE:NGG) has hit a share price of $51.13. At 444,995 shares, the company's volume so far today is one times the average daily volume. Volume is also used as a secondary indicator to help confirm what the price movement is suggesting. Understanding investment valuation ratios allows an investor to assess the true value of an individual stock. For investors primarily interested in the income a stock can generate, the dividend yield is an important determinant of how attractive a stock is. NGG's dividend yield is 7.7%. It is important to remember that dividends are only one component of a stock's return and capital appreciation (or decline) must also be considered when evaluating a security. SEE: Guide To Stock-Picking Strategies: Income Investing

After rising 2.1%, Black (NYSE:BKH) is currently trading at a share price of $32.81. The company's volume for the day so far is 345,582 shares. This is in keeping with its current three-month average. If a stock price makes a big move up or down, volume lets us know the significance of that move. When estimating the value of a particular investment, valuation ratios provide a good basis for assessing the value of an individual stock. The price/earnings to growth (PEG) ratio compares a company's P/E ratio to its earnings-per-share growth rate, which tells you whether or not you are getting a good value when purchasing a stock with a high price/earnings ratio (P/E ratio). BKH's PEG ratio is 4.32. Because of the adjustment for earnings growth rate, the PEG ratio is somewhat more useful than many formulas for comparing companies in different industries.

Vectren (NYSE:VVC) has risen 2% to hit a current price of $30.58 per share. The company's volume for the day so far is 461,373 shares. High volume indicates a lot of investor interest while low volume indicates the opposite. 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. One of the favorite tools of many value investors is analyzing price/book value ratios, as it provides a measure of the underlying value of a company's assets as compared to the valuation of its equity. VVC has a P/B ratio of 1.68 which shows that its share price is higher than its book value. This implies that investors expect management to create more value from a given set of assets and/or that the market value of the firm's assets is significantly higher than their accounting value. All else being equal, a stock with a low P/B value ratio is more attractive than a stock with a high ratio. SEE: Investment Valuation Ratios: Price/Book Value Ratio

Northwest Natural (NYSE:NWN) is currently trading at $49.21 per share, a 2% increase. So far today, the company's volume is 115,701 shares,. As a stock moves up or down, it is important to pay attention to the trading volume. This indicates the level of interest: the higher the volume, the more the interest. Investment valuation ratios can be very useful in estimating whether a stock price is too high, reasonable or a bargain investment opportunity. The P/E ratio has been used for ages by analysts and still remains one of the most relevant pieces of stock valuation. NWN has a P/E ratio of 20.3, high compared to the industry average of 16.4. This could mean that the market is expecting big things over the next few months or years. A high or low P/E ratio is not good or bad in and of itself, but a company trading with a high P/E ratio must continue to post strong financial performance or its stock price is likely to fall. SEE: Investment Valuation Ratios: Price/Earnings Ratio

Companhia Paranaense de Energia (NYSE:ELP) has fallen 1.7% and is currently trading at $20.52 per share. So far today, the company's volume is 138,503 shares. This is consistent with its current daily average. A stock's volume conveys how excited investors are about it. Valuation ratios like 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 are useful in determining how attractive a potential or existing investment is. The price/sales ratio measures a company's stock market price by its revenues. The P/S ratio for ELP is a high 1.44. 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.

Energy Transfer Equity (NYSE:ETE) is at $42.59 per share after an increase of 1.6%. The company's volume is currently 240,153 shares for the day, consistent with its current three-month average. Volume indicates the level of interest that investors have in a company at its current price. Looking at a company's valuation ratios is a good way of getting a basic idea as to its value as an investment. The easy-to-calculate debt ratio is helpful to investors looking for a quick take on the leverage for a company. The debt ratio for ETE is 92.6%, which is relatively high. This means that the company's cash flow is significantly impacted by paying off principal and interest and that any negative change in performance or rise in interest rates could result in default. As with all financial ratios, a company's debt ratio should be compared with the industry average or similar companies.

UniSource (NYSE:UNS) has increased to a share price of $41.90, a 1.5% rise. The company is currently trading a volume of 259,355 shares. Volume is used to evaluate how meaningful the price movement of a stock is. Valuation ratios include 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 debt-equity (D/E) ratio is a measurement of how much suppliers, lenders, creditors and obligors have committed to the company versus what the shareholders have committed. UNS has a high D/E ratio of 201%. Generally, a high D/E ratio means that the company may have difficulty generating enough cash to pay off its debts. 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 The nature of the market is such that stocks will have good days and bad days. Daily stock performance should be weighed against historical performance and put in context of the market overall. However, these fundamental metrics must be analyzed with historic data, industry information in addition to firm specific financial statements.

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