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Power, utility equities post modest gains in Q3

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Power, utility equities post modest gains in Q3

Most U.S. electric and diversified utility equities finished the third quarter in positive territory as the impact of tax reform passed in December 2017 continued to be felt.

Major power-specific indexes hit peaks in September, a month during which Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina and California passed a law limiting utilities' potential financial exposure to wildfires.

The S&P 500 Utilities Index increased 1.5% during the quarter, while the SNL Energy Index remained above the break-even level for most of the quarter, ending Sept. 28 up 0.5%, according to an analysis by S&P Global Market Intelligence. The Dow Jones Utility and the S&P 500 Electric Utilities Sub Ind Index gained 1.3% during the period.

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Major power and utility benchmark indexes are up on the year as of the end of the third quarter, despite a mid-September decline. The SNL Energy Index increased 0.8% since the start of the year, the S&P 500 Electric Utilities Sub Ind Index grew 0.6%, and the Dow Jones Utility index added 0.4%.

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Top-performing stocks

PG&E Corp. was the top-performing utility stock during the third quarter, with shares up 8.1% to $46.01 at close Sept. 28, compared with $42.56 at the end of the second quarter.

A strong second-quarter earnings report and a substantial increase in quarterly dividend helped boost IDACORP Inc. shares during the third quarter, which finished up by 7.6% at $99.23 per share.

Edison International saw its shares advance 7% to $67.68 during the third quarter.

Other top performers include Portland General Electric Co., UGI Corp., DTE Energy Co. and Eversource Energy. AES Corp. shares climbed 4.4% during the third quarter, despite second-quarter results that missed Wall Street estimates. Ameren Corp. saw a 3.9% increase in share value to close at $63.22, while Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. stock rose 3.8% to finish at $35.59.

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Bottom-performing stocks

MDU Resources Group Inc. was the group's biggest loser for the third quarter; its share price dropped 10.4% between June 29 and Sept. 28 to finish at $25.69. During the quarter, MDU acquired ready-mix concrete producer Molalla Redi-Mix and Rock Products Inc. and in July reported second-quarter results that came up short of the S&P Capital IQ normalized consensus EPS estimate of 26 cents. Also during the quarter, MDU filed a settlement with the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission staff to refund $591,424 to electric customers and $1.3 million to gas customers and filed with the Montana Public Service Commission for an electric rate inrease of $11.9 million, or 18.9%.

Avangrid Inc. shares were down 9.4% to close the third quarter at $47.93, and the company has plans to divest certain renewable energy projects in developing stages to generate cash to mitigate lower-than-expected second quarter earnings.

Southern Co. saw a 5.9% drop in its share price to finish at $43.60. During the quarter, utility subsidiary Georgia Power Co. and its partners decided to proceed with the Vogtle nuclear expansion project.

Other utilities on the list of bottom-performing stocks included NiSource Inc., Black Hills Corp., Avista Corp., El Paso Electric Co., ALLETE Inc., Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. and Consolidated Edison Inc.