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Utilities are among the safest equities in the global market, providing nifty profits to investors. They offer high and stable dividend yields, as well as significant capital appreciation. I decided to screen for the top five large-cap utility stocks offering 4% dividends or more. All of the companies show a maximum P/E ratio of 18 (data from finviz/morningstar, and current as of the July 17 close).

Dominion Resources (D) will announce its Q2 earnings on July 28. As of the July 17 close, the Virginia-based company had a market cap of $27.9 billion with a 9.13 P/E and a 14.91 forward P/E. Estimated EPS growth for the next five years is 5.98%, while earnings increased by 136.41% this year. With a profit margin of 20.79%, Dominion pays a 4.07% dividend yield.

Operating margin is 39.30%, whereas the company is trading 1.74% lower than 52-week high. It returned 17% in a year. Earnings increased by 53.51% this quarter, and SMA200 is 9.94%. Debts are unstable, while assets are hardly increasing. Yields are okay. Insiders have been mostly buying stocks for a while. Dominion is a slow but steady profit-maker. Here are the recent dividend payments of D:

May 25, 2011

$0.493

Mar 2, 2011

$0.493

Nov 24, 2010

$0.458

Aug 25, 2010

$0.458

PG & E Corp. (PCG) is required to give detailed maps of its facilities to local fire departments in order to prevent any probable accidents like the blast in San Bruno. The electricity and gas company, as of July 17, owns a market capitalization of $16.79 billion. P/E is 16.04 and forward P/E is 11.37. Analysts expect the company to have a 5.16% EPS growth in the next five years, which is reasonable given the 4.40% EPS growth of the last five years. PCG pays a satisfactory dividend of 4.31% with a profit margin of 7.55%.

Although it has been a rough year for PG&E, it surely proved that it is worth sailing in this ocean. Overall performance of the company is okay. $1,000 invested in PCG in Oct. 2008 is about $1,420 now. Yields are in good shape. Debts are increasing, but assets outrun them. PCG is trading 10.55% lower than the 52-week high, while target price indicates a 12% increase potential. Although the company recently double bottomed, I believe it will soon heal itself. A much better future is on PG&E’s horizon. Recent dividend history is as follows:

Jun 28, 2011

$0.455

Mar 29, 2011

$0.455

Dec 29, 2010

$0.455

Sep 28, 2010

$0.455

PPL Corp. (PPL) just announced that Humana (NYSE:HUM)’s senior vice president Venkata Rajamannar Madabhushi has been appointed to its board of directors. PPL had a market cap of $16.03 billion with a P/E ratio of 11.58 and a forward P/E of 11.67, as of July 17’s close. The company is expected to have an EPS growth of 8.10% in the next five years. With a dividend yield of 5.04% and a profit margin of 13.42%, PPL is a charming stock for dividend lovers.

Although debts are increasing sharply, assets outrun them. Earnings increased by 101.32% this year and 28.23% this quarter. Insider transactions for the last six months have increased by 35.12%. Operating margin is 26.01%, while SMA200 is 7.32%. Target price implies a 6% upside potential, and the company is trading 1.45% lower than the 52-week high. Moreover, it is a dividend stock for the next five years. Yields are all right. The company is likely to go higher. Here are the recent dividend payments of PPL per share:

Jun 8, 2011

$0.35

Mar 8, 2011

$0.35

Dec 8, 2010

$0.35

Sep 8, 2010

$0.35

Southern Co. (SO): After a great career, Bob Dawson, CEO and president of SouthernLINC, is retiring on October 1. As of the July 17 close, the company has a $34.15 billion market cap, a P/E ratio of 17.80, and a forward P/E ratio of 14.90. Estimated EPS growth for the next five years is 5.60%. Southern had a profit margin of 11.36%, while it paid a 4.70% dividend last year.

Southern returned 13.5% in a year. Debts, assets, and yields are okay. Target price is $40.85, which indicates a 1.5% upside potential. SMA200 is 6.11%. Moreover, the company just double topped. Southern Company is a slow but solid profit-maker. Insiders have been both selling and exercising options for a while. While Southern has been an outstanding stock, it might be time to enjoy profits. I would rather wait for a pull-back before buying more. Recent dividend payments of Southern per share are:

Apr 28, 2011

$0.473

Feb 3, 2011

$0.455

Oct 28, 2010

$0.455

Jul 29, 2010

$0.455

Xcel Energy (XEL): Boulder, CO and XEL came to a dead end in negotiations to provide wind power to the city. The electric company, as of the July 17 close, was trading at a P/E ratio of 14.39 and a forward P/E ratio of 13.20. Market capital is $11.63 billion, while analysts expect the company to have a 5.64% EPS growth in the next five years. Although profit margin is relatively thin (7.64%), dividend yield is attractive (4.33%).

Xcel returned about 10% in a year. The company has been doing well since May 2009. Debts are increasing, as well as assets. Yields are in good shape. Target price indicates a 4% upside movement potential, whereas the company is trading 4.33% lower than the 52-week high. Insider transactions for the last six months have increased by 35.21%. XEL is a profitable stock to go long. Following is the recent dividend history of XEL:

Jun 21, 2011

$0.26

Mar 22, 2011

$0.253

Dec 21, 2010

$0.253

Sep 21, 2010

$0.253

Source: 5 Utility Companies Offering Yields of 4% or More