A new week kicked up the same tired issues in the troubled merchant energy sector.
( AYE) blamed accounting problems for a delay in its third-quarter earnings report. And
became the latest company to entertain a complete exit from the once-hot energy trading business. CMS also revealed Monday that its employees -- like those at
and others -- provided false information to trade publications that calculate energy prices.
Michigan-based CMS gained widespread notoriety last summer, when it became the first major company to disclose the extensive use of bogus "roundtrip" energy trades to pump up trading volume and sales. CMS, which just wrapped up an internal investigation of the controversial practice, said the strategy was used to enhance the company's profile as an energy trader rather than to manipulate the price of energy or its own stock.
No More Squeezing the Charmin
Still, CMS denounced the practice and listed a number of initiatives -- including ethics training for employees and auditing by firms other than now-defunct Arthur Andersen -- to prevent similar violations in the future.
"Round-trip trading by CMS ... was an ill-considered, inappropriate marketing practice that is unacceptable," said CEO Ken Whipple.
CMS' stock, cut by roughly two-thirds since the roundtrip trading scandal broke, climbed 3.6%, to $8.43 on Monday's news of a possible exit from the energy-trading business.
Meanwhile, Allegheny missed out on Monday's industry-wide rally because of accounting "miscalculations" that triggered a delay in its quarterly earnings report. The Maryland-based company also warned of possible write-downs in its energy trading portfolio.
Allegheny CEO Alan Noia apologized for the delay and promised a swift return to its regular reporting schedule, but the stock took a dive. Shares of the integrated utility, which fetched $20 two months ago, fell 4.6%, to $5.35 in late-morning trading.
Elsewhere in the sector,
tacked on slight gains after promising shareholders in a Monday morning conference call that their generous dividend remains safe. The Oklahoma utility, which boosted third-quarter profits by 2 cents, to $1.27 a share, insisted that it will make at least enough money next year to pay its $1.33 dividend. But the company's guidance depends on 100% improvement in an unregulated division widely regarded as a disappointment by analysts.
OGE inched up 17 cents, to $16.43, on its earnings and dividend news.
But the sector's biggest gains belonged to some of its most troubled players.
, Dynegy and Williams -- all rumored as possible bankruptcy candidates -- had each posted double-digit percentage gains early in the session. AES climbed 13.6%, to $2.25. Dynegy soared 14.5%, to 79 cents. And Williams tacked on 13%, to hit $2.35.