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Feature Article

Picks and Pans for Second Half 2024

By Roger S. Conrad on Jul. 8, 2024

Nuclear power has officially joined cutting debt, M&A and artificial intelligence as primary drivers of utility and essential services stock returns in 2024. In contrast, high debt and renewable energy have remained broadly unpopular as themes in the first half of the year, as they were in 2023.

As my table “Best and Worst of 2024” highlights, divergence between individual company performance in the Conrad’s Utility Investor coverage universe remains quite wide. The best first half performer by far was Vistra Energy (NYSE: VST) with a 124.34 percent total return. The worst was FuelCell Energy (NSDQ: FCEL), where survival-motivated share dilution resulted in a -60.08 percent loss.

That’s more than a 184-percentage point difference. And it comes in a year when the Dow Jones Utility Average is little changed, with a first half return of about 5 percent or less than 3 percent excluding dividends.

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