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Investing Topics: Investment Strategy

Utilities: A Stock-Picker’s Game in 2017

By Roger S. Conrad on Mar. 12, 2017
Shares of utilities and other essential-service companies have slipped from the highs hit earlier this month, reducing the number of Portfolio holdings that trade above our value-based buy targets to 14. Whether this wavering marks the start of another leg down for the Dow Jones Utility Average remains to be seen. However, the recent rally creates a high bar of expectations and increases the risk that investors will view any hiccup as an excuse to take profits. This month’s feature article highlights some of the macro catalysts that could send utility stocks lower. The current environment favors stock-picking over broad-based exposure, a point underscored by the widening discrepancy between the top and bottom performers in the utility sector. Although the Dow Jones Utility Average posted a total return of 18.2 percent last year, the index’s top performer beat the worst by 39 percentage points. This performance gap stands at 20 percentage points this year, despite the Dow Jones Utility Average gaining 5.4 percent. A retrenchment to normal valuations would widen this range. At this point, only 37 stocks tracked in our 205-company Utility Report Card trade below our buy targets. In fact, several dozen best-in-class names that earn A or B Quality Grades in our proprietary system trade at levels where investors should consider taking a partial profit off the table.  

Eyes on the Prize

By Roger S. Conrad on Mar. 12, 2017
Fewer than one in five stocks in our Utility Report Card trades below our value-based buy targets. Investors should stay disciplined and take their opportunities when they come.

Strategy And Earnings Update

By Roger S. Conrad on Mar. 2, 2017
Utility stocks have continued to rally, propelling a record 20 of our Portfolio holdings above our value-based buy targets--a high-quality problem. We also highlight the solid fourth-quarter results posted by a handful of our aggressive picks.

An Eye on Washington and Two Eyes on Fourth-Quarter Earnings

By Roger S. Conrad on Feb. 12, 2017
Although interest rates and federal policies can affect the stock market and create challenges and opportunities, how companies have positioned themselves and how management teams react to changes ultimately shape investors’ returns.

Picks and Pans for 2017

By Roger S. Conrad on Jan. 10, 2017
At the start of the new year, we roll out our top picks and pans among the various segments represented in our Utility Report Card. Last year’s picks generated an average total return of 22.9 percent, while our pans posted a 2.1 percent gain. We hope to build on this success in 2017.

Lessons from 2016 and Outlook for 2017

By Roger S. Conrad on Jan. 10, 2017
Two of our three model Portfolios outperformed the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Utility Average handily last year, while our aggressive picks lagged. We review what went right and what went wrong, with an eye toward refining our process.

The Correction Continues, But Don’t Blame the Election

By Roger S. Conrad on Nov. 16, 2016
The S&P 500 Utilities Index has tumbled in the wake of the 2016 election, as the conventional wisdom holds that the results were bad for utility stocks. Rising interest rates and the prospect of improved economic growth if the Trump administration delivers on its promised fiscal stimulus have given portfolio managers an excuse to rotate out of utility stocks and into cyclical fare. Unsustainably high valuations made this decision all the easier. Conrad’s Utility Investor subscribers who followed our lead over the summer and took partial profits on their big winners and added exposure to ProShares UltraShort Utilities (NYSE: SDP) should be doing reasonably well, all things considered. This exchange-traded fund, which delivers two times the Dow Jones US Utilities Index’s inverse daily performance, has rallied by about 25 percent—and we see the potential for more upside. However, the most important point to take away from this issue of Conrad’s Utility Investor is that the underlying business conditions for our favorite utilities haven’t changed. The sector remains in excellent financial shape and has its best growth prospects in decades. Unfortunately, valuations remain frothy. Election 2016 has created far more opportunity than risks for best-in-class utilities. But potential regulatory tailwinds are only one of the many factors that will drive returns going forward.  

Riding the Trump Trade

By Roger S. Conrad on Nov. 16, 2016
Our bet against utility stocks has continued to pay off, while the selloff in the sector has pulled prices closer to our value-based buy targets. Stay disciplined.

What’s Next for Utility Stocks?

By Roger S. Conrad on Oct. 11, 2016
With utility stocks down more than 10 percent since early July, our approach of high-grading the model Portfolios, taking partial profits on overextended names and betting on a pullback has paid off. We weigh the scenarios that could emerge in coming months and revisit our investment strategy.

Stick with the Plan

By Roger S. Conrad on Oct. 11, 2016
The investment strategy we’ve pursued over the past several months has paid off thus far. And after the recent pullback in utility stocks, two of our longtime favorites once again trade below our value-based buy targets.

MODEL PORTFOLIOS & RATINGS

ABOUT ROGER CONRAD

Roger S. Conrad needs no introduction to individual and professional investors, many of whom have profited from his decades of experience uncovering the best dividend-paying stocks for accumulating sustainable wealth. Roger b