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Interested in gaining dividend income from a defensive sector such as utilities? Defensive sectors tend to perform well during uncertain economic times, because their services are usually needed regardless of economic growth. If you consider utilities to be a good source for dividends, here's a list you might be interested in.

We ran a screen on utilities stocks paying dividend yields above 2% and sustainable payout ratios below 50%. We screened these stocks to find those with high profitability, indicated by higher gross, operating, and pretax margins than their industry peers.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in analyst ratings over the last two years for the 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 these stocks pay reliable dividends? Use this list as a starting point for your own analysis.

1. Cleco Corporation (NYSE:CNL): Engages in the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity in Louisiana. Dividend yield at 3.18%, payout ratio at 34.55%. TTM gross margin at 37.89% vs. industry average at 26.75%. TTM operating margin at 27.41% vs. industry average at 18.37%. TTM pretax margin at 24.18% vs. industry average at 13.98%.

2. El Paso Electric Co. (NYSE:EE): Engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity primarily in west Texas and southern New Mexico. Dividend yield at 2.61%, payout ratio at 17.51%. TTM gross margin at 29.77% vs. industry average at 26.75%. TTM operating margin at 20.78% vs. industry average at 18.37%. TTM pretax margin at 17.42% vs. industry average at 13.97%.

3. Enersis S.A. (NYSE:ENI): Engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. Dividend yield at 4.17%, payout ratio at 38.79%. TTM gross margin at 30.47% vs. industry average at 26.78%. TTM operating margin at 23.97% vs. industry average at 18.4%. TTM pretax margin at 20.4% vs. industry average at 14.%.

4. NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE): Engages in the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electric energy in the United States and Canada. Dividend yield at 3.67%, payout ratio at 48.32%. TTM gross margin at 32.57% vs. industry average at 26.78%. TTM operating margin at 22.35% vs. industry average at 18.4%. TTM pretax margin at 15.98% vs. industry average at 14.%.

5. Sempra Energy (NYSE:SRE): Engages in the development of energy infrastructure, operation of utilities, and provision of energy-related products and services worldwide. Dividend yield at 3.34%, payout ratio at 32.71%. TTM gross margin at 26.83% vs. industry average at 26.38%. TTM operating margin at 17.07% vs. industry average at 17.02%. TTM pretax margin at 17.17% vs. industry average at 12.52%.

6. Wisconsin Energy Corp. (NYSE:WEC): Engages in the generation, distribution, and sale of electric energy and steam. Dividend yield at 3.50%, payout ratio at 47.15%. TTM gross margin at 27.14% vs. industry average at 26.38%. TTM operating margin at 19.78% vs. industry average at 17.02%. TTM pretax margin at 17.31% vs. industry average at 12.52%.

*Profitability data sourced from Fidelity, all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: 6 Utilities Dividend Stocks With High Profitability