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Tickers in this Article: CPN, NRG, XTXI, HNP, CMLP, ATLS, ENI
The Nasdaq has declined 0.2%, the S&P 500 has climbed 0.3% and the Dow has been relatively flat so far today. 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 Utilities sector (XLU) has increased 0.4% so far today and here are its biggest movers:
CompanyMarket CapPercentage Change
Calpine (NYSE:CPN).65 billion-5.1%
NRG (NYSE:NRG).09 billion-3.5%
Crosstex Energy (Nasdaq:XTXI)3.9 million+3%
Huaneng Power International, Inc (NYSE:HNP).2 billion-2.5%
Crestwood Midstream (NYSE:CMLP).14 billion-2.4%
Atlas (NYSE:ATLS).76 billion+2.1%
Enersis S.A (NYSE:ENI).76 billion+1.9%
Broker Summary: Fidelity Online Brokerage

Calpine (NYSE:CPN) is currently trading at a share price of $17.58, a 5.1% decline. This morning, 5.4 million shares have been traded, which is more trading activity than there was yesterday. 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. A company's investment value can be 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. CPN has a P/B ratio of 2.25 which shows that its share price is higher than its book value. This high share price relative to asset value is likely to indicate that the company has been earning a very high return on its assets. One problem with the P/B value ratio is that it can be difficult to calculate the true book value of a company, so investors should be aware that many measures of book value may provide only a rough estimate, and should be taken with a grain of salt. SEE: Using The Price-To-Book Ratio To Evaluate Companies

NRG (NYSE:NRG) is down 3.5% to reach $21.54 per share. The company's volume for the day so far is 1.8 million shares. Volume indicates the level of interest that investors have in a company at its current price. Investment valuation ratios provide investors with an estimation, albeit a simplistic one, of the value of a stock. Dividend yield is a way to measure how much cash flow you are getting for each dollar invested in an equity position - in other words, how much "bang for your buck" you are getting from dividends. The dividend yield for NRG is 1.6%, which is on the low end. If you are an income investor, this stock may not be attractive to you. A stock's dividend yield depends on the nature of a company's business, its posture in the marketplace (value or growth oriented), its earnings and cash flow, and its dividend policy. SEE: Guide To Stock-Picking Strategies: Income Investing

Crosstex Energy (Nasdaq:XTXI) has risen 3% to hit a current price of $12.26 per share. The company's volume is currently 93,002 shares for the day, consistent with its average over the last three months. Volume is an important indicator because it indicates how significant a price shift is. Investors can use valuation ratios as tools to estimate what kind of deal a particular investment is. In a nutshell, the price/sales ratio shows how much Wall Street values every dollar of the company's sales. XTXI's P/S ratio of 0.39 is fairly low. Low P/S ratios are more attractive than high ratios because this indicates that an investor is paying less for each dollar of sales. All things being equal, a low P/S ratio is good news for investors, while a very high one can be a warning sign.

Falling 2.5%, Huaneng Power International, Inc (NYSE:HNP) is currently at a share price of $28.31. So far today, the company's volume is 22,819 shares. This is 0.3 times the current daily average. The trading volume for a stock indicates the level of investor interest. When estimating the value of a particular investment, valuation ratios provide a good basis for assessing the value of an individual stock. The debt ratio shows the proportion of assets that a company is financing through debt. The debt ratio for HNP is 80.1%, which is relatively high. As such, the company is highly leveraged and not highly liquid. As with all financial ratios, a company's debt ratio should be compared with the industry average or similar companies.

Crestwood Midstream (NYSE:CMLP) is trading at $23.25 per share, down 2.4%. So far today, 63,329 shares have changed hands, consistent with the volume from yesterday lighter than yesterday's volume of 129,750 shares. When a stock price moves up or down, watching the volume is a good way of identifying how significant that shift is. 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. To a large degree, the debt-equity (D/E) ratio provides another vantage point on a company's leverage position, in this case, comparing total liabilities to shareholders' equity, as opposed to total assets in the debt ratio. CMLP has a D/E ratio of 106%, 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.

Increasing 2.1%, Atlas (NYSE:ATLS) is trading at $34.94 per share. So far today, 28,163 shares have changed hands. A stock's volume conveys how excited investors are about it. 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. A company's capitalization (not to be confused with its market capitalization) is the term used to describe the makeup of a company's permanent or long-term capital, which consists of both long-term debt and shareholders' equity. ATLS' capitalization ratio of 65% is relatively high. A high capitalization ratio is not necessarily bad since higher financial leverage can increase the return on a shareholder's investment. A low level of debt and a healthy proportion of equity in a company's capital structure is an indication of financial fitness.

After rising 1.9%, Enersis S.A (NYSE:ENI) is currently trading at a share price of $16.80. So far today, the company's volume is 116,975 shares, 0.3 times the average volume over the last three months. 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 price/earnings ratio is calculated by taking a stock price and dividing it by the earnings-per-share (EPS). Compared to the industry average of 10.21, ENI's P/E ratio of 16.1 is quite high. A company with a high P/E ratio will eventually have to live up to the high rating by substantially increasing its earnings, or the price will need to drop. 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: How To Find P/E And PEG Ratios

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. 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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