The utilities sector is made up of companies that provide services to homes and businesses, such as electricity, natural gas, water, and sewage. These companies are heavily regulated. Among the largest and best-known companies in the sector are NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE), Sempra Energy (SRE), and Southern Co. (SO). The sector, as measured by the Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLU), produced a total return, dividends included, of 19.6% during the last 12 months, roughly equal to the 19.8% return for the S&P 500, based on numbers as of November 22, 2019.

Below we'll look at the top utilities sector stocks for December of 2019 based on the best value, fastest growth, and most momentum.

Utility Stocks with the Best Value

Here are the utility stocks in the S&P 500 with the lowest 12-month trailing price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios in the sector. Because profits can be returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and buybacks, a low P/E ratio shows you’re paying less for each dollar of profit generated.

Utility Stocks with the Best Value
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) 12-Month Trailing P/E
NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) 39.20 9.9 10.1
PPL Corp. (PPL) 33.67 24.3 13.7
Southern Co. (SO) 62.68 65.7 14.4
Source: YCharts
  • NRG Energy Inc.: NRG Energy is an integrated electric company engaged in the generation and transmission of power. Its primarily serves customers in the northeastern U.S.. The company has announced that its annual dividend per share will increase ten-fold to $1.20, starting in Q1 2020. It is targeting annual dividend growth of 7% to 9% per share.
  • PPL Corp.: PPL serves electricity customers in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and the United Kingdom, as well as natural gas customers in Kentucky.
  • Southern Co.: Southern is an electric and gas utility serving Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. The company has been making a series of wind power acquisitions, the latest in the state of Washington.

Utility Stocks with the Fastest Earnings Growth

Here are the utility stocks in the S&P 500 with the highest year-over-year (YOY) earnings per share (EPS) growth for the most recent quarter. Rising earnings show that a company’s business is growing and is generating more money that it can reinvest or return to shareholders.

Utility Stocks with the Fastest Earnings Growth
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) EPS Growth (%)
Sempra Energy (SRE) 146.80 41.4 271.7
NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) 39.20 9.9 84.1
Southern Co. ( SO) 62.68 65.7 47.7
Source: YCharts
  • Sempra Energy: Sempra Energy supplies gas and electricity to southern and central California, as well as electricity in Peru and Chile. It has over 40 million customers worldwide, including 21.7 million served by its Southern California Gas Co. subsidiary, the largest U.S. natural gas utility. Earlier this year, Moody's downgraded the debt of Sempra's San Diego Gas & Electric Co. subsidiary based on wildfire liability and other risks.
  • NRG Energy Inc.: See above for company description.
  • Southern Co.: See above for company description.

Utility Stocks with the Most Momentum

These are the utility stocks in the S&P 500 that had the greatest total return over the past 12 months.

Utility Stocks with the Most Momentum
  Price ($) Market Cap ($B) 12-Month Trailing Total Return (%)
Southern Co. (SO) 62.68 65.7 41.9
Entergy Corp. (ETR) 115.90 64.9 37.3
Edison International ( EIX) 71.01 111.4 37.6
S&P 500 ( SPY) -- -- 19.8
Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF ( XLU) -- -- 19.6
Source: YCharts
  • Southern Co.: See above for company description.
  • Entergy Corp: Entergy is an electric power generation and transmission company, as well as a natural gas supplier, primarily supplying customers in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Entergy recently scored the highest in J.D. Power's annual customer satisfaction rankings for electric utilities, and its earnings per share for Q3 2019 beat the consensus estimate by 10%.
  • Edison International: Edison is a company devoted to electric power generation and focused on the development, acquisition, and operation of facilities around the world. In Q3 2019 Edison reported net income of $471 million, down slightly YOY from $513 million in Q3 2018.