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Utilities are generally known as defensive stocks that may benefit during times of volatility as investors move into lower-risk assets. If you think that now is a good time for defensive stocks, you may be interested in the following list.

We ran a screen on utilities stocks for those seeing significant net buying from institutional investors (such as hedge fund managers and mutual fund managers) over the current quarter.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the top six stocks mentioned below. Analyst ratings sourced from Zacks Investment Research.‬

We also created a price-weighted index of the stocks mentioned below, and monitored the performance of the list relative to the S&P 500 index over the last month. (To access a complete analysis of this list's recent performance, click here.)

Do you think institutions are calling it right on these names? Use this list as a starting point for your own analysis.

List sorted by net institutional purchases as a percent of share float.

1. American Midstream Partners LP (AMID): Engages in gathering, treating, processing, marketing, and transporting natural gas in the Gulf Coast and southeast regions of the United States. Market cap of $160.19M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 1.4M, which is 16.81% of the company's 8.33M share float.

2. PPL Corporation (PPL): Generates and sells electricity; and delivers natural gas to approximately 5.3 million utility customers primarily in the northeastern and northwestern US. Market cap of $17.27B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 59.0M, which is 10.21% of the company's 578.03M share float. The stock has gained 22.22% over the last year.

3. PG & E Corp. (PCG): Operates as a public utility company that engages in electricity and natural gas distribution primarily in northern and central California. Market cap of $16.20B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 20.8M, which is 5.17% of the company's 402.63M share float. The stock has lost 11.98% over the last year.

4. GenOn Energy, Inc. (GEN): Operates as a generator of wholesale electricity in the United States. Market cap of $2.14B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 32.6M, which is 4.55% of the company's 715.98M share float. It's been a rough couple of days for the stock, losing 6.73% over the last week.

5. Northwest Natural Gas Company (NWN): Distributes natural gas primarily in Oregon, Washington, and California. Market cap of $1.25B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 1.2M, which is 4.52% of the company's 26.54M share float. The stock is a short squeeze candidate, with a short float at 9.9% (equivalent to 20.95 days of average volume). The stock has gained 1.58% over the last year.

6. Pennichuck Corp. (PNNW): Engages in the collection, storage, treatment, and distribution of potable water for domestic, industrial, commercial, and fire protection service markets primarily in New Hampshire. Market cap of $135.17M. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 170.9K, which is 3.72% of the company's 4.59M share float. The stock has gained 6.7% over the last year.

7. Atlantic Power Corporation (AT): Owns interest in various power projects and a transmission line in the United States. Market cap of $4.51B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 1.2M, which is 1.75% of the company's 68.57M share float. The stock has gained 4.97% over the last year.

8. Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. (PEG): Operates in the energy industry primarily in the northeastern and mid Atlantic United States. Market cap of $16.83B. Net institutional shares purchased over the current quarter at 15.5M, which is 3.07% of the company's 505.28M share float. The stock has gained 10.42% over the last year.

Institutional data sourced from Fidelity; all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: 8 Utilities Stocks Smart Money Is Snapping Up