Editor's Note: Any reference to TheStreet Ratings and its underlying recommendation does not reflect the opinion of TheStreet, Inc. or any of its contributors including Jim Cramer or Stephanie Link.

Two out of the three major indices traded up today The three major indices are trading lower today with the Dow Jones Industrial Average ( ^DJI) trading up 5 points (0.0%) at 16,911 as of Thursday, June 19, 2014, 3:55 PM ET. The NYSE advances/declines ratio sits at 1,514 issues advancing vs. 1,469 declining with 176 unchanged.

The Utilities sector as a whole closed the day up 0.3% versus the S&P 500, which was up 0.1%. Top gainers within the Utilities sector included Pure Cycle ( PCYO), up 4.3%, Atlantic Power ( AT), up 1.6%, Avista ( AVA), up 1.6%, Atlas Energy ( ATLS), up 2.0% and TECO Energy ( TE), up 1.5%.

TheStreet Ratings Group would like to highlight 3 stocks pushing the sector higher today:

Avista ( AVA) is one of the companies that pushed the Utilities sector higher today. Avista was up $0.51 (1.6%) to $32.52 on light volume. Throughout the day, 241,528 shares of Avista exchanged hands as compared to its average daily volume of 409,100 shares. The stock ranged in a price between $32.00-$32.52 after having opened the day at $32.09 as compared to the previous trading day's close of $32.01.

Avista Corporation, an energy company, is engaged in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity; and distribution of natural gas primarily in the United States and Canada. It operates in two segments, Avista Utilities and Ecova. Avista has a market cap of $1.9 billion and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are up 13.6% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Wednesday. Currently there are no analysts who rate Avista a buy, no analysts rate it a sell, and 5 rate it a hold.

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TheStreet Ratings rates Avista as a buy. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its increase in stock price during the past year, growth in earnings per share, revenue growth, attractive valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had generally high debt management risk by most measures that we evaluated.

Highlights from TheStreet Ratings analysis on AVA go as follows:

  • The stock has risen over the past year as investors have generally rewarded the company for its earnings growth and other positive factors like the ones we have cited in this report. Turning our attention to the future direction of the stock, it goes without saying that even the best stocks can fall in an overall down market. However, in any other environment, this stock still has good upside potential despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year.
  • AVISTA CORP has improved earnings per share by 14.1% in the most recent quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago. The company has demonstrated a pattern of positive earnings per share growth over the past two years. We feel that this trend should continue. During the past fiscal year, AVISTA CORP increased its bottom line by earning $1.86 versus $1.32 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($1.88 versus $1.86).
  • Despite its growing revenue, the company underperformed as compared with the industry average of 7.7%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 1.7%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • Net operating cash flow has increased to $156.90 million or 48.88% when compared to the same quarter last year. The firm also exceeded the industry average cash flow growth rate of 8.03%.

You can view the full analysis from the report here: Avista Ratings Report

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At the close, Atlantic Power ( AT) was up $0.06 (1.6%) to $3.54 on average volume. Throughout the day, 1,680,095 shares of Atlantic Power exchanged hands as compared to its average daily volume of 1,138,400 shares. The stock ranged in a price between $3.48-$3.58 after having opened the day at $3.52 as compared to the previous trading day's close of $3.49.

Atlantic Power Corporation owns and operates a fleet of power generation assets in the United States and Canada. Atlantic Power has a market cap of $418.8 million and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are up 0.3% year-to-date as of the close of trading on Wednesday. Currently there are no analysts who rate Atlantic Power a buy, 2 analysts rate it a sell, and 2 rate it a hold.

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TheStreet Ratings rates Atlantic Power as a sell. The company's weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its unimpressive growth in net income, weak operating cash flow, generally disappointing historical performance in the stock itself and generally high debt management risk.

Highlights from TheStreet Ratings analysis on AT go as follows:

  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Independent Power Producers & Energy Traders industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 390.8% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from $6.50 million to -$18.90 million.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to -$28.70 million or 138.67% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing to the industry average, the firm's growth rate is much lower.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 3.38 and currently higher than the industry average, implying increased risk associated with the management of debt levels within the company. Regardless of the company's weak debt-to-equity ratio, AT has managed to keep a strong quick ratio of 1.62, which demonstrates the ability to cover short-term cash needs.
  • Despite any intermediate fluctuations, we have only bad news to report on this stock's performance over the last year: it has tumbled by 30.69%, worse than the S&P 500's performance. Consistent with the plunge in the stock price, the company's earnings per share are down 500.00% compared to the year-earlier quarter. Naturally, the overall market trend is bound to be a significant factor. However, in one sense, the stock's sharp decline last year is a positive for future investors, making it cheaper (in proportion to its earnings over the past year) than most other stocks in its industry. But due to other concerns, we feel the stock is still not a good buy right now.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. Compared to other companies in the Independent Power Producers & Energy Traders industry and the overall market, ATLANTIC POWER CORP's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.

You can view the full analysis from the report here: Atlantic Power Ratings Report

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12 months. Learn more.

Pure Cycle ( PCYO) was another company that pushed the Utilities sector higher today. Pure Cycle was up $0.27 (4.3%) to $6.60 on light volume. Throughout the day, 47,775 shares of Pure Cycle exchanged hands as compared to its average daily volume of 68,500 shares. The stock ranged in a price between $6.27-$6.65 after having opened the day at $6.33 as compared to the previous trading day's close of $6.33.

Pure Cycle Corporation designs, constructs, operates, and maintains water and wastewater systems in the Denver metropolitan area. Pure Cycle has a market cap of $144.9 million and is part of the utilities industry. Shares are unchanged year-to-date as of the close of trading on Wednesday. Currently there is 1 analyst who rates Pure Cycle a buy, no analysts rate it a sell, and none rate it a hold.

TheStreet Ratings rates Pure Cycle as a hold. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and impressive record of earnings per share growth. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that we feel that the company's cash flow from its operations has been weak overall.

Highlights from TheStreet Ratings analysis on PCYO go as follows:

  • PCYO's very impressive revenue growth greatly exceeded the industry average of 10.3%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues leaped by 69.0%. This growth in revenue appears to have trickled down to the company's bottom line, improving the earnings per share.
  • PCYO's debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.09 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. To add to this, PCYO has a quick ratio of 2.09, which demonstrates the ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.
  • Compared to where it was 12 months ago, the stock is up, but it has so far lagged the appreciation in the S&P 500. Despite the fact that it has already risen in the past year, there is currently no conclusive evidence that warrants the purchase or sale of this stock.
  • The company's current return on equity greatly increased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of significant strength within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Water Utilities industry and the overall market, PURE CYCLE CORP's return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to -$1.44 million or 193.26% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing to the industry average, the firm's growth rate is much lower.

You can view the full analysis from the report here: Pure Cycle Ratings Report

STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12 months. Learn more.

Editor's Note: Any reference to TheStreet Ratings and its underlying recommendation does not reflect the opinion of TheStreet, Inc. or any of its contributors including Jim Cramer or Stephanie Link.