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Executive Summary

Between AI and M&A Utilities will Get Their Due

By Roger S. Conrad on Apr. 3, 2024

The Dow Jones Utility Average closed out Q1 barely in the black and lagging the S&P 500 by about 9.3 percentage points. The average total return for CUI portfolio stocks was a bit better at 5.8 percent. But the bottom line is this is still a stock market chasing momentum and growth stories, rather than value and dividends.
The essential services stocks that have shone the most so far in 2024 have been tightly connected to popular investment themes like nuclear power, such as our top performer Vistra Energy (NYSE: VST), or else beneficiaries of M&A. MDU Resources’ (NYSE: MDU) pending spinoff of Everus Construction Group in late 2024, for example, is exciting investors as much as last year’s of materials company Knife River (NYSE: KNF) did not—mainly because KNF has roughly doubled in value since.
Avangrid Inc (NYSE: AGR) turned sharply higher when its 81.61 percent owner Iberdrola SA (Spain: IBE, OTC: IBDRY) offered to buy out the public’s shares at a cash price of $34.25 per share. I expect a successful close this year, possibly at a slightly higher price. But with upside from here limited, I’m switching to EverSource Energy (NYSE: ES), another battered investor in offshore wind projects that suddenly look a lot more promising.

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