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Tuesday's Energy Stocks: Dow nears 20,000 mark; energy equities advance

The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched closer to the 20,000 milestone on Tuesday, Dec. 20, setting another record high of 19,987.63 before closing up 0.46% at 19,974.62. The S&P 500 gained 0.36% to 2,270.76, and the SNL Energy Index climbed 0.21% to 280.16.

Among electric utility stocks, Westar Energy Inc. saw a 0.46% increase in strong trading to $56.57 after Evercore ISI lowered its price target for the company to $58.25 from $58.50. The research company assumes a 90% probability that Westar's planned merger with Great Plains Energy Inc. will be completed, even though Kansas Corporation Commission staff has recommended state regulators reject the deal. Great Plains dipped 0.14% on light volume to $27.80.

8point3 Energy Partners LP rose 3.25% in above-average trading to finish at $13.36 after announcing a 3.5% increase in the fourth-quarter 2016 cash distribution for its class A shares. The fourth-quarter distribution will be 24.90 cents per share, an increase from the previous quarterly distribution of 24.06 cents per share.

TransAlta Corp. shed 2.94% on heavy volume to close at C$7.26 after predicting that it will produce better results in 2017 than in 2016 despite expectations that the Alberta power market will remain oversupplied. The Calgary, Alberta-headquartered power generator said it expects to generate comparable free cash flow of C$300 million to C$365 million in 2017, which is expected to be roughly C$50 million to C$65 million better than its 2016 guidance.

The SNL Electric Company Index advanced 0.23% to 424.71.

Chesapeake Energy Corp. fell 0.27% in below-average trading to settle at $7.29 following an agreement to divest part of Haynesville Shale properties in northern Louisiana to a Covey Park Energy LLC affiliate for about $465 million. Analysts at Capital One Securities Inc. and Barclays Capital Inc. viewed the deal as a positive for Chesapeake, saying it is well priced and will slightly lower the company's projected leverage ratios.

NGL Energy Partners LP picked up 2.06% on average volume to end at $19.80 amid plans of acquiring NGL assets in Louisiana and Oklahoma from Murphy Energy Corp. for about $51 million. The assets include an NGL terminal in Port Hudson, La., and an NGL and condensate facility in Kingfisher, Okla., in the STACK play.

The SNL Midstream Energy Index closed 0.42% higher to 118.74.

Coal moved back to green territory as the SNL Coal Index edged up 0.63% to 80.12. Among components, Foresight Energy LP jumped 10.29% on brisk volume to $7.50, Arch Coal Inc. climbed 4.03% in weak trading to $83.05 and CNX Coal Resources LP settled 2.00% higher to $17.85.

Extending recent weakness, front-month January 2017 natural gas futures continued to crumble as traders once again focused on moderate midrange temperature forecasts that imply modest weather-related demand in the coming weeks. Futures closed at $3.263/MMBtu, down 12.9 cents on the day.

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