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Thursday's Energy Stocks: PG&E shares down 12.95% on dividend suspension

Major U.S. benchmarks clung to profits Thursday, Dec. 21, with most energy sector indexes also evincing investor confidence.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average increased 0.23% to close at 24,782.29, and the S&P 500 climbed 0.20% to finish the session at 2,684.57. The SNL Energy Index declined 0.37% to 283.50.

PG&E Corp. shares dropped 12.95% on more than eight times average volume to $44.50 at market close, after the company announced the suspension of its common stock dividend one day prior, citing potential liabilities related to the destructive wildfires in Northern California last October.

Sempra Energy shares retreated 4.48% to close at $106.91 on heavy volume. Moody's revised its ratings outlook to negative from stable for Sempra in light of the recent agreement reached with the staff of the Public Utility Commission of Texas and other key stakeholders regarding its proposed acquisition of Oncor Electric Delivery Co. LLC.

Edison International shares lost 7.31% to wrap up the day at $63.31 on high volume, PNM Resources Inc. shares retreated 2.02% to close at $41.25 on average volume and Westar Energy Inc. shares declined 1.62% to $52.28 at close.

The SNL Electric Company Index decreased 1.15% to 477.85 at session end.

WPX Energy Inc. completed the sale of its legacy natural gas position in the San Juan Basin for $169 million. The company's shares rose 3.77% to close at $13.77 on below-average volume.

QEP Resources Inc. shares added 6.78% to end the day at $9.61 on high volume, CVR Refining, LP moved up 5.34% to finish the session at $14.80 on strong volume and Cheniere Energy Inc. shares advanced 4.96% to end the session at $51.64 in brisk trading.

The SNL Midstream Energy Index gained 0.81% to close at 107.88.

In the gas utility business, Atmos Energy Corp. shares decreased 1.95% to close at $84.86 on high volume, Northwest Natural Gas Co. stock dropped 1.67% to end the day at $58.80 on average volume and ONE Gas Inc. shares declined 1.65% to close at $72.57 on slow volume.

The SNL Gas Utility Index decreased 1.25% to end at 578.08.

NextEra Energy Partners stock decreased 1.29% to close a slow day at $41.46.

Covanta Holding Corp. shares spiked 2.09% to close at $17.10 on brisk volume, and NRG Energy Inc. saw its shares grow 1.70% to $27.46 on below-average volume. In renewables, SunPower Corp. shares added 1.91% to end the day at $9.07 on slim volume.

The SNL Merchant Generator Index added 0.26% to close at 105.10.

In coal, Alliance Holdings GP LP shares gained 2.39% to close the day at $26.15 on slim volume, Peabody Energy Corp. shares hiked 2.26% to close at $38.00 on above-average volume and Arch Coal Inc. stock grew 2.18% to end at $90.73 on thin volume.

The SNL Coal Index added 1.76% to close at 69.58.

The struggle to hold gains continued on Thursday as January 2018 natural gas futures once again lost early upside momentum that was helped by a larger-than-anticipated withdrawal from natural gas inventories. Post-data, the contract reached a $2.669/MMBtu high, but gains were reversed and the contract settled 3.9 cents lower at $2.598/MMBtu.

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