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Tickers in this Article: HNP, NWE, WPZ, PCG, NRG, UNS, WES
The Nasdaq is trading up 0.4%, the S&P 500 has increased 0.3% and the Dow has remained steady 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 risen 0.4% overall, and these are the biggest movers in the sector so far:
CompanyMarket CapPercentage Change
Huaneng Power International, Inc (NYSE:HNP)$10.18 billion+3.4%
NorthWestern (NYSE:NWE)$1.39 billion-2.4%
Williams Partners (NYSE:WPZ)$18.41 billion+2.2%
PG&E (NYSE:PCG)$18.34 billion-1.7%
NRG (NYSE:NRG)$4.88 billion+1.6%
UniSource (NYSE:UNS)$1.75 billion-1.6%
Western Gas (NYSE:WES)$4.79 billion+1.3%
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After rising 3.4%, Huaneng Power International, Inc (NYSE:HNP) is currently trading at a share price of $29.95. This morning, 58,870 shares have been traded,. If a stock price makes a big move up or down, volume lets us know the significance of that move. It is important for an investor to estimate the value of any potential or existing investment; valuation ratios make this easier. When used consistently and uniformly, the price/earnings to growth (PEG) ratio is an essential tool that adds dimension to the price/earnings ratio, allows comparisons across diverse industries and is always on the lookout for value. HNP has a PEG ratio of 5.76. Because of the adjustment for earnings growth rate, the PEG ratio is somewhat more useful than many formulas for comparing companies in different industries.

Slipping 2.4%, NorthWestern (NYSE:NWE) is currently trading at $36.51 per share. This morning, the company's volume is 250,687 shares. This is 0.9 times the current daily average. High volume indicates a lot of investor interest while low volume indicates the opposite. 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 is calculated by dividing the current stock price by the company's book value per share. NWE's P/B ratio of 1.51 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. A weakness of the P/B value ratio is that while the price component is easily determined by looking at the stock quote, the book value component is more difficult to estimate and more open to individual interpretation and analysis. SEE: Using The Price-To-Book Ratio To Evaluate Companies

Williams Partners (NYSE:WPZ) has risen 2.2% and is currently trading at $54.47 per share. With 282,955 shares changing hands so far today, the company's volume is 0.4 times the current three-month average. When a stock price moves up or down, watching the volume is a good way of identifying how significant that shift is. Investors can make use of valuation ratios to estimate whether a stock is fairly valued. The dividend yield is calculated by dividing a company's dividends per share by its stock price. WPZ's dividend yield is 5.9%. Simply comparing the level of dividends that two stocks pay does not give a true reflection of which security is more attractive, so investors calculate the dividend yield in order to standardize dividend payments. SEE: Dividend Yield For The Downturn

PG&E (NYSE:PCG) is down 1.7% to reach $42.29 per share. The company is currently trading a volume of 868,531 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. 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/sales ratio measures a company's stock market price by its revenues. The P/S ratio for PCG is a high 1.29. This could be a good sign if the share price increases. It is important to keep in mind when looking at the P/S ratio that just because a company is generating revenues, this does not mean that the company is profitable, and in the long run, profits drive stock prices.

NRG (NYSE:NRG) is at $21.75 per share after an increase of 1.6%. At two million shares, the company's volume so far today is with trading activity in keeping with yesterday's. Volume is used to evaluate how meaningful the price movement of a stock is. Investors can use valuation ratios as tools to estimate what kind of deal a particular investment is. The debt ratio measures the leverage of a company, and a company's leverage is a good way to assess risk. The debt ratio for NRG is 73.2%, which is relatively high. This might mean that the company now has low borrowing capacity, which reduces it's financial flexibility. As with all financial ratios, a company's debt ratio should be compared with the industry average or similar companies.

Currently trading at $41.64 per share, UniSource (NYSE:UNS) has fallen 1.6%. The company's volume for the morning is 64,932 shares. This is 0.2 times its current daily average. 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. 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/earnings ratio is calculated by taking a stock price and dividing it by the earnings-per-share (EPS). Compared to the industry average of 10.78, UNS' P/E ratio of 16.9 is quite high. 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: The P/E Ratio: A Good Market-Timing Indicator

Western Gas (NYSE:WES) is currently trading at $50.64 per share, a 1.3% increase. At 19,758 shares, the company's volume so far today is 0.1 times its current three-month average. 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 provide investors with an estimation, albeit a simplistic one, of the value of a stock. 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. WES' D/E ratio is 61%. The D/E ratio is not a pure measurement of a company's debt because it includes operational liabilities in total liabilities.

The Bottom Line No matter the economic climate, Wall Street will always have stocks that make major moves each week. Paying close attention to the previous ratios will help you identify key times to adjust your strategy. However, these fundamental metrics must be analyzed with historic data, industry information in addition to firm specific financial statements.

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