Stock sell-off: Nowhere to hide but utilities

Their dividends are outdoing Treasurys, and their businesses remain stable.

By TheStreet Staff Aug 5, 2011 11:45AM

Image: Power lines (© Digital Vision)By Frank Byrt, TheStreet

 

Thursday's stock market sell-off wiped out the Dow's gains for the year, while Treasury yields sank to record lows and money market rates dropped below zero.

 

Worries that the global economy will fall into another recession have pummeled stocks since they hit a peak for the year in May. With the Federal Reserve's prediction for a revival in the economy taking place in the second half of this year failing to materialize so far, investors are bracing for even more bad news.

 

All of which means the utilities sector should get renewed attention. After all, utilities' customers are "captive," providing stable revenue, and the companies pay fat dividends in lieu of outsized stock gains.

 

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The two industries that offer the best yields are telecom services, which had an average dividend yield of 5.4% at the end of July, and utilities, with a 4.3% yield, according to Standard & Poor's MarketScope Advisor, in an Aug. 3 research note.

 

Among the stocks highly rated are Windstream (WIN), a Midwest rural telecom with an 8.1% yield; AT&T (T), the wireless and broadband telecom, which is trading at a price-to-earnings discount to its peers and carrying a 5.8% dividend yield; PPL Corp. (PPL), a Pennsylvania utility holding company with a 5% dividend yield that recently bought two small telecoms in Kentucky and one in the U.K.; and American Electric Power (AEP), an Ohio-based utility holding company with subsidiaries in 11 states with a dividend yield of 4.8%.

Regulated electric-utilities stocks are up an average 5.5% this year and 14% over the past 12 months, through Aug. 3, according to Morningstar. The Dow, S&P 500 ($INX) and the Nasdaq ($COMPX) have all declined.

1Comment
Aug 5, 2011 8:53PM
avatar
Smile There's a lot of stocks beside utilities (XLU) that provide pretty good dividends such as HCBK, INTC, MSFT, NLY, NOK, T and some have growth and rebound possibilities much greater than utilities. Most have gone down 10-15% with the market so I wouldn't hide everything in ultrasafe or you'll miss those special up days. 
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