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Thursday's Energy Stocks: ETP gains on reported asset sale talks; sector rises

The energy sector continued its win streak Thursday, Dec. 22, as the SNL Energy Index picked up 0.45% to 282.35. Meanwhile, broader indexes edged lower as the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.12% to 19,918.88 and the S&P 500 moved down 0.19% to 2,260.96.

Energy Transfer Partners LP shares gained 2.29% in more than three times the average trading to end at $36.20, following reports that Blackstone Group LP is in talks to buy a stake in assets held by the giant gas pipeline partnership.

Citing "people familiar with the matter," The Wall Street Journal reported that Blackstone is teaming up with former Energy Transfer Equity LP CFO Jamie Welch, who was heavily involved in Energy Transfer's failed merger with Williams Cos. Inc. and was dismissed after the deal fell apart. Energy Transfer Equity advanced 2.83% on about twice the normal volume to settle at $19.29. Williams slipped 1.05% in robust trading to close at $30.30.

Among other midstream players, Sunoco LP jumped 12.66% on over four times the average volume to $26.52, CVR Refining LP spiked 10.99% in about five times the normal trading to $10.10 and Ferrellgas Partners LP climbed 3.90% on thin volume to $6.92. The SNL Midstream Energy Index rose 0.72% to 121.22.

Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. dropped 1.04% on slightly higher-than-average volume to close at C$11.45 while Empire District Electric Co. saw a 0.03% increase in below-average trading to settle at $34.09 after the Kansas Corporation Commission approved the companies' proposed $2.4 billion merger. With the receipt of the final required regulatory approval, the companies expect to close the deal Jan. 1, 2017.

In other utility stocks, PNM Resources Inc. rose 1.04% in weak trading to finish at $34.10, Duke Energy Corp. inched up 1.00% on average volume to settle $77.77 and Eversource Energy earned 0.89% in below-average trading to end at $55.44. The SNL Electric Company Index closed 0.15% higher to 423.53.

Coal companies reversed the previous day's gains, as the SNL Coal Index edged 0.90% lower to 79.59. Leading losses in the sector, Natural Resource Partners LP declined 5.68% to $33.20, Westmoreland Coal Co. retreated 4.91% to $17.06 and Arch Coal Inc. lost 4.26% to $77.45, all in light trading.

January 2017 natural gas futures surged to a two-week high but struggled to hold the upside Thursday, Dec. 22, despite a larger-than-anticipated storage withdrawal reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration for the week to Dec. 16. After rising to a $3.626/MMBtu high, the front-month stumbled to a $3.507/MMBtu low and settled down 0.4 cent at $3.538/MMBtu.

Market prices and index values are current as of the time of publication and are subject to change.