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Chart Watch: Utility indexes march higher in Q1, beating merchant, MLP sectors

Investorswere bullish on energy stocks during the first quarter of 2016, with five outof the eight SNL Energy indexes recording gains and outperforming the fourthquarter of 2015.

TheSNL Energy Large Diversified utility index saw a 15.22% gain for the quarterended March 31, compared with a 0.78% gain during the quarter ended Dec. 31,2015. The SNL Electric Company Index closed the quarter with a 15.20% gainfollowing a 4.44% gain in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Froma dip of more than 5% in the beginning of the first quarter, the SNL EnergySmall Diversified Index closed up 12.20%, compared with a gain of 4.64% in thelast quarter of 2015.

Utilitystocks beat the broader marketsin the first quarter of 2016, though analysts held a outlook on the sector heading into the year.

TheSNL Merchant Generator Index remained in the red zone throughout the firstquarter and closed with a drop of 9.61% as of March 31, compared with a drop of8.32% in the fourth quarter of 2015. A March 11 suggested a bullishoutlook for the independent power producer sector based on upside to shareprices.

TheSNL Midstream Energy Index showed some recovery toward the end of the firstquarter and narrowed its decline to 2.15% from a 12.89% loss at the end of thefourth quarter of 2015. However, the SNL MLP Index widened its losses and wasdown 6.11% during the first quarter. Aheadof earnings season, analysts are focusingon key themes including balance sheet metrics, growth capital spend andproducer contract renegotiations.

TheSNL Gas Utility Index was up 14.13%, while SNL Coal Index finished with a 2.23%gain, compared with a loss of 32.63% at the end of 2015.An SNL Energy analysis on March 22 found that the combined market value of majorpublicly traded U.S. coal producers continues to erode, with a group of 13 U.S.coal producers losing more than92% of its value since April 2011.

SNL Energy is an offering of S&PGlobal Market Intelligence, which is owned by McGraw Hill Financial Inc.