TheStreet.com Ratings: Best, Worst Utility Funds
This week several of the utility companies caught the National Arbor Day (April 27) spirit. Commonwealth Edison, a unit of Exelon (EXC) and the largest utility in Illinois, is encouraging tree-planting. Short trees such as dogwoods or crabapples that stay under 20 feet tall are preferred by ComEd to avoid power-line damage, of course.
Also, in honor of Arbor Day, Consolidated Edison (ED), which serves New York City, is promoting paperless billing.
But the utilities had more than just Arbor Day to be excited about this week. The Dow Jones Utilities Average has outpaced the broad-market S&P 500 index 16.40% to 5.94% year to date and 2.31% to 1.62% for the week ending Thursday, April 26. The utility sector mutual funds we track gained 1.55% over the last five trading days.
With solid first-quarter earnings coming in, these utilities are showing that escalating energy prices can be profitably passed through to customers. This allows the companies to continue paying high dividends to their shareholders.Topping the best-performing list this week is the Ultra Utilities ProShares (UPW), which tracks twice the daily return of the Dow Jones U.S. Utilities Index. The fund powered its way to a return of 4.56% for the five trading days ending April 26. Hitting a new 52-week high, the (MFD)Macquarie/First Trust Global Infrastructure/Utilities Dividend & Income Fund (MFD) gained 4.19%. Only 10.6% of its assets are in the U.S., with 33.2% in the U.K., 21.8% in Australia, 15.1% in Canada and 8.7% in Italy. By sector, the highest concentration is water with 31.7%, followed by electricity with 21.5%, gas at 10.3% and commercial services at 10.2%. Macquarie's three best-performing stocks were all American: Amerigas Partners (APU), up 7.57%, Magellan Midstream Partners (MMP), up 5.03%, and Enbridge Energy Partners (EEP), up 4.09%. Amerigas, the largest U.S. propane retailer, improved its quarterly distribution by 5%, bringing its indicated dividend yield to 6.60%. Magellan also announced another boost in a long series of quarterly dividend increases this week. In third place is (UTPSX)ProFunds Utilities UltraSector ProFund (UTPSX), which tracks 1.5 times the daily return of the Dow Jones U.S. Utilities Index. This fund is made up of 86.1% electric, 9.5% gas, 0.6% water, and 0.4% environmental control stocks. All the holdings are U.S. companies, with the largest being Exelon (EXC), Duke Energy (DUK), TXU Corp (TXU) and Dominion Resources (D). The fund's best-performing holdings were Northwest Natural Gas (NWN), up 6.96%, and New Jersey Resources Corp. (NJR), up 6.81%. This week, Northwest Natural Gas beat first-quarter earnings estimates, enlarged its share-buyback program and claimed an unbroken streak of 51 consecutive years of dividend increases. New Jersey Resources announced a positive earnings surprise and raised full-year guidance. Both Ultra Utilities and ProFunds Utilities track the same utility index. But on top of the higher leverage, the exchange-traded fund structure of Ultra Utilities has advantages over ProFunds. Ultra only charges a 0.95% expense ratio. On the other hand, the open-end fund, the ProFunds one, charges a 2.48% expense ratio, 1.00% for the 12b1 fee and a 0.75% management fee. In an up utility market, Ultra should always outperform ProFunds. If utilities plummet, you may lose a little less in ProFunds.
|Best-Performing Utility Funds|
|Name (Ticker)||Rating||Fund Type||1 Week Total Return|
|Ultra Utilities ProShares (UPW)||U||ETF||4.56%|
|Macquarie/First Trust Gbl Infra/Util Div & Inc (MFD)||B||Closed-End||4.19%|
|ProFunds Utilities UltraSector Profund (UTPSX)||A-||Open-End||3.18%|
|Cohen & Steers Select Utility Fund Inc. (UTF)||B+||Closed-End||3.13%|
|Utilities HOLDRs Trust (UTH)||A||ETF||2.62%|
|Flex-funds - The Total Return Utilities Fund (FLRUX)||A+||Open-End||2.58%|
|AIM Utilities Fund (FSTUX)||A+||Open-End||2.22%|
|Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLU)||A+||ETF||2.21%|
|Vanguard Utilities ETF (VPU)||A+||ETF||2.21%|
|Vanguard Utilities Index Fund (VUIAX)||U||Open-End||2.20%|
|Worst-Performing Utility Funds|
|Name (Ticker)||Rating||Fund Type||1 Week Total Return|
|UltraShort Utilities ProShares (SDP)||U||ETF||-4.10%|
|Gabelli Utility Trust (GUT)||C+||Closed-End||-1.98%|
|WisdomTree International Utilities Sector Fund (DBU)||U||ETF||-0.45%|
|Evergreen Utilities and High Income Fund (ERH)||B+||Closed-End||-0.28%|
|DNP Select Income Fund Inc (DNP)||C||Closed-End||0.40%|
|Gartmore Global Utilities Fund/United States (GGUAX)||B||Open-End||0.70%|
|Fidelity Utilities Fund (FIUIX)||A+||Open-End||0.81%|
|Evergreen Utility and Telecommunications Fund (EVUAX)||A+||Open-End||0.86%|
|First Investors Value Fund (FIUTX)||B||Open-End||0.97%|
|SPDR FTSE Macquarie Global Infrastructure 100 ETF (GII)||U||ETF||1.07%|
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