With Interest Rates Going Nowhere, Deutsche Bank Favors Utilities

After years of outperformance following the crash in 2007-2008 and the ensuing Great Recession, the utility sector was like a warm blanket to frigid cold investors. Solid dividends and a very defensive posture gave shareholders outstanding total returns for years. That all started to end in 2014, and it really came to a halt last year, as the specter of rising rates began to hit the markets.

The reality is we have started 2016 with the worst market performance ever, and some voices on Wall Street are even crying out that a recession could be in the cards. While the reality of that seems unlikely, slow growth will persist, with some major banks eyeing a puny 2% world gross domestic product for this year.

A new report from Deutsche Bank says to overweight the utilities for 2016, as the firm too is dubious that the Federal Reserve is poised to raise rates aggressively against a so-so economic backdrop. The report has three top pick stocks rated Buy for investors to consider now.

NextEra Energy

With a very strong balance sheet, this company is poised for a solid 2016. NextEra Energy Inc. (NYSE: NEE) is a leading clean energy company with consolidated revenues of approximately $17.0 billion, approximately 44,900 megawatts of generating capacity, which includes megawatts associated with noncontrolling interests related to NextEra Energy Partners.

Headquartered in Juno Beach, Fla., NextEra Energy’s principal subsidiaries are Florida Power & Light, which serves approximately 4.8 million customer accounts in Florida and is one of the largest rate-regulated electric utilities in the United States, and NextEra Energy Resources, which, together with its affiliated entities, is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun.

NextEra Energy expects a compounded annual growth of 6% to 8% in its adjusted earnings per share through 2018. It is aggressively raising its renewables portfolio, with a focus on wind generation facilities. It’s already the largest power generator by both wind and solar energy in the Unites States. By 2019, the company expects to invest about $15 billion, particularly to add both wind and solar generation facilities. Given the strong focus on regulated operations, NextEra’s earnings are expected to rise steadily. Earnings from regulated operations rose from 58% in 2011 to 66% in 2015.

NextEra investors are paid a solid 2.9% dividend. The Deutsche Bank price objective is $118, and the Thomson/First Call consensus price target is $119.44. Shares closed Monday at $106.42.

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