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Tickers in this Article: ELP, DUK, ETR, GAS, TRGP, NKA, DPM
Currently, the Nasdaq has increased 0.2%, the S&P 500 has remained steady and the Dow remains relatively unchanged. 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.

These are the biggest movers in the Utilities sector (XLU) (+0.2%):
CompanyMarket CapPercentage Change
Companhia Paranaense de Energia (ADR) (NYSE:ELP)$5.89 billion-5.1%
Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK)$48.02 billion-1.6%
Entergy (NYSE:ETR)$12.61 billion-1.6%
Gas Natural Group (NYSE:GAS)$4.78 billion-1.4%
Targa Resources Corp (NYSE:TRGP)$1.83 billion-1.4%
Niska Gas Storage Partners LLC (NYSE:NKA)$862.6 million+1.4%
DCP Midstream Partners, LP (NYSE:DPM)$2.56 billion-1.2%
Forex Broker Summary: UFXMarkets

Currently trading at $20.43 per share, Companhia Paranaense de Energia (NYSE:ELP) has fallen 5.1%. The company's volume for the day so far is 358,865 shares. 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/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. ELP's P/B ratio of 0.84 indicates that its share price is lower than its book value. This is due to one of two possibilities: that the stock is being unfairly or incorrectly undervalued by investors because of some transitory circumstance and represents an attractive buying opportunity at a bargain price or that the market's low opinion and valuation of the company are correct, at least over the foreseeable future. All else being equal, a stock with a low P/B value ratio is more attractive than a stock with a high ratio. SEE: How Buybacks Warps The Price-To-Book Ratio

Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) is down 1.6% to reach $67.10 per share. At 1.5 million shares, the company's volume so far today is 0.3 times its current three-month average. Volume indicates the level of interest that investors have in a company at its current price. 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. DUK has a P/E ratio of 20.2, high compared to the industry average of 15.41. Generally speaking, the higher the P/E ratio, the higher the market expectations for a company's future performance. High P/E stocks could be "growth" stocks, while low PE stocks may be "value" stocks. SEE: Investment Valuation Ratios: Price/Earnings Ratio

Entergy (NYSE:ETR) has decreased to $69.97 per share, a 1.6% fall. So far today, 559,076 shares of the company's stock have changed hands. This is on pace to reach yesterday's trading volume of 1.2 million shares. If a stock price moves on high volume, this means that the change is a significant one. Investors can make use of valuation ratios to estimate whether a stock is fairly valued. The price/earnings to growth (PEG) ratio divides a company's P/E ratio by its growth rate of earnings-per-share. PEG ratio for ETR is -8.32. 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.

At $40.12, Gas Natural (NYSE:GAS) has slipped 1.4%. At 116,396 shares, the company's volume so far today is 0.3 times its current daily 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. Investors can use valuation ratios as tools to estimate what kind of deal a particular investment is. The dividend yield is measured by taking the annual dividends per share and dividing that number by the stock price. GAS has a dividend yield of 4.5%. To calculate the dividend yield, divide the level of dividends by the stock price; the higher the yield, the more attractive the security. SEE: Guide To Stock-Picking Strategies: Income Investing

After a decline of 1.4%, Targa (NYSE:TRGP) has hit a share price of $42.55. This morning, the company is trading a volume of 95,696 shares. Volume is also used as a secondary indicator to help confirm what the price movement is suggesting. 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. While measuring a price/earnings ratio (P/E ratio) is a popular valuation technique, the measure cannot be calculated for companies without earnings, so some investors analyze the price/sales ratio. TRGP's P/S ratio of 0.27 is fairly low. The lower the P/S ratio, the more reasonably price the stock, all else being equal. All things being equal, a low P/S ratio is good news for investors, while a very high one can be a warning sign.

Niska Gas Storage (NYSE:NKA) is currently trading at $12.81 per share, a 1.4% increase. With 49,728 shares changing hands so far today, the company's volume is 0.3 times the average volume over the last three months. Volume indicates the level of interest that investors have in a company at its current price. In making a decision about a potential or existing investment, valuation ratios are useful as a basis for seeing whether the stock price is too high, reasonable, or a bargain. The easy-to-calculate debt ratio is helpful to investors looking for a quick take on the leverage for a company. NKA has a debt ratio of 61.7%, which is on the high side. 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. 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.

DCP Midstream (NYSE:DPM) is currently trading at a share price of $43.14, a 1.2% decline. So far today, the company's volume is 28,330 shares. This is on pace to fall short of yesterday's volume of 85,695 shares. Price change alone is not enough to know how a stock is doing. Volume is an important secondary indicator used to confirm trends suggested by price movement. When estimating the value of a particular investment, valuation ratios provide a good basis for assessing the value of an individual stock. 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. The D/E ratio for DPM is 87%. 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 No matter the economic climate, Wall Street will always have stocks that make major moves each week. It is important to weigh current activity against historical performance when making any investment decisions. However, these fundamental metrics must be analyzed with historic data, industry information in addition to firm specific financial statements.

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