NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With aggregate year-to-date gains of 26.38%, according to Fidelity, the utilities sector -- one of least talked-about sectors in 2014 -- has also been one of the most dominant.
Aside from beating both the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) (up 8.77% year to date) and the S&P 500 (SPY) (up 12.63%), utilities beat every other major sector, including health care (up 23.77%) and technology (up 20.56%), which came in second and third, respectively.
This has been a trend for the trailing twelve months. Utilities are up 27.18%, leading every other group. And considering the 26.34% gain in the Utilities Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLU) , utilities deserve more recognition.
Duke shares have responded to management's strategic plans to grow the company's power-generating assets to create value for shareholders. Looking to grow its earnings in the long term, Duke plans to increase its capital spending in 2015. The company has cited various cost synergies it plans to realize from its merger with Progress Energy, completed in July.
Duke expects its earnings and dividend growth to accelerate from its capital investment plans. Considering the recent acquisition of NCEMPA generating assets, which the company says will be accretive to earning-per-share growth through 2018, Duke is one of the best utilities to buy not just for 2015, but for the next four to five years.
For similar reasons, PPL is a stock to keep an eye on in 2015. The company serves markets in the U.K. and the U.S., providing the sort of diverse geographical operation conservative investors appreciate. PPL is also one of the top revenue producers (growing 43.36%) and a strong dividend payer, yielding 4.2% -- almost twice the average of dividend payers in the S&P 500.
Dividends are just of the benefits. Utilities offer many more advantages, too.