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Executive Summary

Strength in Numbers

By Roger S. Conrad on Aug. 11, 2015

The bull market for stocks that began in March 2009 continues to charge ahead, while volatility, as measured by options trading, remains near an all-time low.

However, some sectors and equity groups find themselves in a painful bear hug.

The prospect of further downside from crude-oil prices has extended the energy sector’s mauling after a brief recovery rally earlier this year. And the Alerian MLP Infrastructure Index, a capitalization-weighted index of 25 traditional master limited partnerships, has given up almost 40 percent of its value over the past 12 months.

Up until a few weeks ago, investors couldn’t get enough exposure to renewable energy, especially rapidly growing yieldcos. But these niche securities have sold off precipitously, with the Bloomberg North American Power Yieldco Index tumbling more than 20 percent since the end of May.

Meanwhile, a rampant US dollar has eroded the value of American investors’ international equities and their dividends, though this headwind has abated of late.

Amid all these challenges, the Dow Jones Utilities Average has perked up after a difficult spring, rallying 8 percent from its low in late June. Some of these inflows could come from money rotating out of dividend-paying energy stocks, a repeat performance of a trend that emerged when oil prices collapsed in fall 2014.

Although the Dow Jones Utilities Average remains well off its high in late January, valuations look reasonable and a period of seasonal strength is just around the corner.

More important, earnings have lived up to management teams’ guidance from the beginning of the year. Of the companies covered in our Utility Report Card, 20 revised their guidance higher when they reported quarterly results and 141 maintained their outlook.

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