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Wednesday's Energy Stocks: EQT down 3.09% after selling midstream assets

Broader indexes continued losses Wednesday, Feb. 21, as investors digested minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's last meeting. Most energy benchmarks closed down at least a full percentage point.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.67% to close the day at 24,797.78, and the S&P 500 decreased 0.55% to end at 2,701.33. The SNL Energy Index shed 1.32% to wrap the midweek session at 269.23.

In the midstream sector, EQT Corp. shares dropped 3.09% to finish a robust session at $49.81 despite promises that the company would distribute a large chunk of cash among shareholders. According to analysts, about $1 billion is headed EQT's way as it sells off gathering and transportation pipeline operations to its affiliated master limited partnership, EQT Midstream Partners LP, along with ownership interest in Rice Midstream Partners LP. CEO Steven Schlotterbeck promised to not chase production growth over 10% to 15% as per the company's guidance.

Cheniere Energy Partners LP and Cheniere Energy Inc. released their respective quarterly financial results. Cheniere Energy's shares slid 2.10% to close the day at $56.81 on above-average volume after reporting consolidated adjusted EBITDA for the recent quarter of $523 million, an increase from $136 million a year earlier, while Cheniere Energy Partners units inched up 0.03% to close average trading at $29.66 after posting adjusted EBITDA of $612 million, an increase from $202 million a year earlier.

Chevron Corp.'s shares lost 1.73% to close at $109.06 on slightly above-average volume, and Exxon Mobil Corp.'s shares slipped 1.14% to finish a below-average session at $74.89. Both companies have been struggling to gain back investor trust since the release earlier in February of unimpressive sector results for the fourth quarter of 2017.

The SNL Midstream Index lost 1.50% to close at 105.45.

In the independent power production sector, NextEra Energy Partners units decreased 3.57% to close a light session at $38.67, and NRG Energy Inc. lost 2.69% to end at $25.00 on thin volume.

The SNL Merchant Generator Index gave away 0.91% to close at 101.66.

FirstEnergy Corp. late Feb. 20 reported fourth-quarter 2017 operating earnings of 71 cents per basic share, an increase from 38 cents per basic share in the same quarter of 2016. The company's shares gave up 0.12% to end a brisk session at $32.76.

Among large electric and diversified utilities, Avista Corp.'s shares retreated 1.09% to end an active day at $49.20 after reporting fourth-quarter 2017 net income attributable to shareholders of $27.6 million, or 42 cents per diluted share, compared to $40.1 million, or 62 cents per diluted share, in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Southern Co. stock declined 1.27% to close at $42.92 on heavy volume after releasing fourth-quarter 2017 net income, excluding certain items, of $509 million, or 51 cents per share, up from $295 million, or 30 cents per share, in the comparable quarter of 2016.

Vectren Corp. shares shaved off 1.77% to book the day at $61.46 on strong volume. Vectren utility Vectren Energy Delivery of Indiana-South announced plans late Feb. 20 to build an up to 900-MW gas-fired power plant and a 50-MW solar facility to replace coal-fired generation it intends to retire.

The SNL Electric Company Index shrank 1.32% to close at 455.44.

After reaching as low as $2.53/MMBtu in the previous week, NYMEX March natural gas futures reversed early session losses and built on previous-day gains as oversold conditions triggered some bargain buying and short covering ahead of the release of weekly inventory data Feb. 22. March natural gas finished the Feb. 21 session up 4.3 cents at $2.659/MMBtu, and the April contract gained 3.2 cents to $2.681/MMBtu.

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