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Wednesday's Energy Stocks: Utilities weather sector, broader decline

A weak retail sales report and bleak trade deal prospects dragged broader markets on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

U.S. retail sales unexpectedly declined for the first time in seven months in September, raising chances of a federal interest rate cut in October.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which will assess yearly whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from mainland China to justify the Asian financial hub's special status with the U.S.

The bill has drawn firm opposition and warnings of retaliatory measures from Beijing.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.08% to 27,001.98, the S&P 500 was down 0.20% to 2,989.69.

In the energy sector, electric and diversified utilities weathered the general downward trend while oil and gas majors recorded the biggest losses.

Exelon Corp., however, lost 4.57% in about double average trading to close at $44.91, following the resignation of Anne Pramaggiore as senior executive vice president of the company and CEO of Exelon Utilities effective immediately on Oct. 15.

Pramaggiore's retirement comes after Exelon and Commonwealth Edison Co. received a second grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois earlier this month. The Chicago Tribune reported that Pramaggiore "is one focus of the ongoing federal probe" into Exelon subsidiary ComEd's lobbying activities in Illinois.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Public Utilities Commission ordered PG&E Corp. utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to account for its decisionmaking failures that resulted in confusion for many of the 738,000 customers who had their power turned off for 48 hours or more from Oct. 9 through Oct. 13.

PG&E shares advanced 2.20% on below-average volume to settle at $7.88.

Among other sector members, CenterPoint Energy Inc. gained 1.56% in active trading to $28.62; PPL Corp. added 1.54% on strong volume to $32.41; and NextEra Energy Inc. picked up 1.04% on slightly below-average volume to $229.91.

NiSource Inc. declined 0.60% on about triple average volume to end at $27.97. Subsidiary Columbia Gas of Massachusetts canceled the Alternate Backfeed component of its Greater Springfield Service Territory Reliability Project, a five-part plan to improve gas delivery in Western Massachusetts.

In the renewables sector, JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. slumped 6.56% in active trading to $14.96; Vivint Solar Inc. shed 4.45% in light trading to $6.65; and Canadian Solar Inc. declined 2.70% on light volume to $18.17.

The S&P 500 Utilities Sector was up 0.24% to 322.03.

Among oil and gas companies, Exxon Mobil Corp. retreated 1.71% in below-average trading to $68.23. The oil major has been looking around Beaver County, Pa., for a site to build a petrochemical plant, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported Oct. 15, citing multiple sources.

Kinder Morgan Inc. receded 0.79% in active trading to $20.02, following the after-market release of its third-quarter earnings. The company posted adjusted EBITDA of $1.83 billion, a decrease from $1.86 billion in the year-ago period. The S&P Global Market Intelligence consensus adjusted EBITDA estimate was $1.86 billion.

Suncor Energy Inc. saw an increase of 0.44% on light volume to $29.90, after increasing its stake in biofuels producer Enerkem Inc. Suncor would provide resources to support the operations of the Enerkem Alberta Biofuels LP plant in Edmonton, Alberta.

Other notable performers in the sector included Noble Energy Inc. which declined 2.96% on below-average volume to $20.30; Schlumberger Ltd., which lost 2.62% on brisk volume to $31.95; and Concho Resources Inc., which dropped 2.34% in light trading to $64.77.

Among master limited partnerships, NGL Energy Partners LP receded 3.03% to $11.52; Antero Midstream Corp. was down 2.82% to $7.24; and Genesis Energy LP retreated 2.09% to $21.04, all on light volume.

The S&P 500 Energy Sector saw a 1.49% decrease to 422.81, and the Alerian MLP Index rolled back 0.54% to 221.48.

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