Investing

Why Fund & Income Investors Are Drawn to Utilities (XLU, SO, EXC, D, IDU, RYU, CEG, NRG, NI, PCS, VZ, UPW, NEE, UTF, UTG, DNP, FSTUX, CMS, POR, RYAUX, FE, FKUTX, SRE)

Cohen & Steers Select Utility Fund Inc. (NYSE: UTF), now the Infrastructure Fund, is a closed-end fund with a market cap of $1.55 billion. The fund pays a quarterly dividend of $0.36, so its yield is close to 8.0%. Its 52-week range is $12.27-$18.48, and it closed last week at $18.00. Shares are up about 45% in the past 12 months and about 47% from the annual low.

Wells Fargo Advantage Utilities and High Income Fund (AMEX: ERH) claims a market cap of $110.2 million. The fund pays an annual dividend of $0.90 and its yield is 7.5%. Its 52-week range is $10.13-$12.36, and it closed last week at $11.97. Shares are up about 18% in the past year and about the same from the annual low.

DNP Select Income Fund Inc. (NYSE: DNP) has a market cap of $2.37 billion. The fund pays an annual dividend of $0.46 and its yield is 4.6%. Its 52-week range is $8.83-$10.24, and it closed last week at $9.91. Shares have gained about 11% in the past 12 months and about 12% from the annual low.

Reaves Utility Income Fund (AMEX: UTG) posts a market cap of $579.7 million. It pays an annual dividend of $1.38 and its yield is 5.4%. The fund’s 52-week range is $17.45-$25.83, and it closed last week at $25.32. Shares have gained about 41% in the past 12 months and about 45% from the annual low.

Invesco Utilities Investor (FSTUX) is an open-end mutual fund with net assets of $229 million. Its year-to-date return is 8.83% and its yield is 2.3% Its top three holdings are Dominion, CMS Energy Corp. (NYSE: CMS), and Portland General Electric Co. (NYSE: POR). Its NAV is $16.26, up about 22% in the past 12 months.

Rydex Utilities (RYAUX) claims net assets of about $22 million. Its year-to-date return is 10.08% and its yield is 6.19%. Its top three holdings are FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), Southern Company, and NextEra Energy. Its NAV is $26.02, up about 17% in the past 12 months.

Franklin Utilities A (FKUTX) holds net assets of $2.96 billion. It’s year-to-date return is 8.11% and its yield is 3.44%. The fund’s top three holdings are Southern Company, Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE), and NextEra Energy. Its NAV is $12.39, up about 21% in the past 12 months.

As you can see, there is a reason that investors are sticking with utility ETFs and utility mutual funds.  It is not often that you see returns in the 40% or higher range from a defensive sector.  Throw in earnings predictability, economic uncertainty, and a higher dividend and you have a recipe that is going to draw investors.  The trick now is finding those which offer the most value.

Paul Ausick