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Utilities weakest among S&P 500 sectors in November

The S&P 500 Energy Index swung to the positive side of the ledger in November with a total return of 1.8%, compared to a negative return of 2.3% in October. The S&P 500 Utilities index saw a total negative return of 1.8%, making it the lowest-performing index compared to the broad S&P 500 index, which recorded a total return of 3.6% in the month, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Oilfield services company Schlumberger Ltd. posted the strongest performance in the U.S. energy group with a total return of 10.7%. The Houston-based company received a "buy" rating from Tudor Pickering Holt & Co. based on a sustainable dividend and a "new (and logical) strategy" outlined by the company's new CEO, Olivier Le Peuch.

Cimarex Energy Co. saw a total return of 9.4% in November as the Denver-headquartered exploration and production company expects Permian Basin output to drive its 2020 crude production growth. "We are seeing a good pace [of] activity into 2020, and we are focused on that Permian oil growth," CFO and Senior Vice President G. Mark Burford said on a Nov. 5 earnings call.

Halliburton Co. had the third-best return of the month at 9%, followed by ConocoPhillips Co. with a gain of 8.6% and Noble Energy Inc. with a return of 8.4%.

The worst performer among S&P 500 Energy companies in November was Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., with a total negative return of 14%. During the month, the Appalachian shale gas driller closed the sale of its 20% stake in Meade Pipeline Co LLC to NextEra Energy Partners subsidiary Meade Pipeline Investment LLC.

Cabot was followed by Diamondback Energy Inc. with a total negative return of 9.6%. Shares of Diamondback took a beating Nov. 6 after the company reported a significant miss on earnings and disappointing production numbers for the third quarter. Also during the month, the company sold $3 billion of senior debt and received upgrades from Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings.

Hess Corp., HollyFrontier Corp. and Occidental Petroleum Corp. were also among the bottom-performing S&P 500 Energy companies in November. Hess saw a negative return of 5.6%, HollyFrontier posted a negative return of 5.5%, and Occidental recorded a total negative return of 4.8%.

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AES Corp. carried positive momentum from October and topped the electric and diversified components of the S&P 500 Utilities index in November with a total return of 10.9%. During the month, AES posted an increase in third-quarter adjusted earnings to 48 cents per share, from 35 cents per share in the prior-year quarter, beating analyst estimates by 8 cents. It also received a rating upgrade from Fitch Ratings and an outlook revision from S&P Global Ratings.

Edison International saw a total return of 9.9% during the month as its Southern California Edison Co. subsidiary reached agreements in principle concerning the wildfire-related claims brought against the company by 23 local government entities.

Edison was followed by Sempra Energy with a total return of 1.9%, PPL Corp. with a gain of 1.6% and Dominion Energy Inc. with a return of 0.7%.

CenterPoint Energy Inc. slid to the bottom of the S&P 500 Utilities index performers with a negative return of 14.5%. Shares of CenterPoint Energy declined after Texas regulators issued a partial decision in subsidiary CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric LLC's rate case. Analysts lowered price targets for the company, while Moody's placed CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric's ratings on review for downgrade.

The five bottom performers on the S&P 500 Utilities index also included Pinnacle West Capital Corp. with a total negative return of 6.4%, Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. with a total negative return of 6.3%, NiSource Inc. with a total negative return of 5.7% and WEC Energy Group Inc. with a total negative return of 5.5%.