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Thursday's Energy Stocks: Utilities take lead, outpacing broad indexes

Utilities outperformed other energy indexes in the Thursday, Dec. 29 session, as the Dow Jones Utility Average increased 1.27% to 662.93. The SNL Energy Index bounced back to green, closing up 0.67% to 282.57, despite extended losses in the broader markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.07% to 19,819.78 and the S&P 500 declined 0.03% to 2,249.26.

The SNL Electric Company Index moved up 1.24% to 425.74. Alliant Energy Corp. earned 1.73% to settle at $38.19, Pinnacle West Capital Corp. climbed 1.72% to close at $78.25 and Xcel Energy Inc. edged up 1.61% to end at $40.94, all in weak trading.

The largest U.S. gas and oil pipeline companies have had a bounce-back 2016, outperforming their midstream peers and the benchmark S&P 500 but underperforming gas producers, which rallied from a deeper trough.

Leading gas utility companies, South Jersey Industries Inc. picked up 1.57% on strong volume to finish at $34.34, ONE Gas Inc. spiked 1.59% in light trading to close at $64.55 and Southwest Gas Corp. rose 1.50% on thin volume to settle at $76.56. The SNL Gas Utility Index ascended 1.15% to 536.69.

Coal companies bucked sector gains as the SNL Coal Index fell 1.87% to 78.49. Peabody Energy Corp. gave up 2.81% in over-the-counter trading to close at $5.12, after increasing the consensus among creditors in an updated reorganization plan. Holders of about 25% of the outstanding principal amount of the company's senior unsecured notes and about 25% of the outstanding principal amount of the company's senior secured second-lien notes will become parties to various agreements.

Arch Coal Inc. dipped 1.23% on thin volume to end at $78.13, a day after filing a motion seeking a final decree closing its Chapter 11 cases. The motion, filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Eastern District of Missouri, says the outstanding claims in each case "have been fully resolved or will be fully resolved by Jan. 27, 2017."

Among other coal stocks, Rhino Resource Partners LP dropped 4.38% to $4.59, Alliance Resource Partners LP retreated 2.88% to $21.95 and Cloud Peak Energy Inc. settled 2.68% lower to $5.80.

February 2017 natural gas futures were on the defensive, taking the lead from the expired January 2017 contract Thursday, Dec. 29. The fresh front-month contract stayed negative, sinking to a $3.754/MMBtu low despite a larger-than-anticipated storage withdrawal that erased the year-on-five-year-average storage surplus. The contract settled at $3.802/MMBtu, 9.6 cents lower on the session.

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