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Do you prefer the high dividend yields and defensive characteristics of the utilities sector? For a closer look at the stocks of the utilities sector, we ran a screen.

We began by screening the utilities sector for stocks with strong upward momentum, trading within 5% of their 52-week highs.

We then screened for those stocks with strong sales trends, comparing growth in revenue to growth in accounts receivable over the last year. Since accounts receivable is the portion of revenue not yet received, and there is no guarantee the money will ever be received, the smaller the portion of revenue made up of receivables the healthier the company's revenue.

We screened for stocks seeing faster growth in revenue than accounts receivable year-over-year, as well as accounts receivable comprising a smaller portion of current assets over the same time period.

Interactive Chart: Press Play to compare changes in market cap 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 these stocks will break through to new highs? Use this list as a starting point for your own analysis.

List sorted by increase in revenue over the last year.

1. Avista Corp. (AVA): Engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of energy and other energy-related businesses in the United States and Canada. Market cap at $1.52B, most recent closing price at $25.96. The stock is currently trading 2.88% below its 52-week high. Revenue grew by 17.23% during the most recent quarter ($438.93M vs. $374.42M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -15.49% during the same time period ($218.83M vs. $258.94M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 44.68% to 35.61% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2011-12-31 to 3 months ending 2010-12-31).

2. TransCanada Corp. (TRP): Operates as an energy infrastructure company in North America. Market cap at $31.01B, most recent closing price at $43.88. The stock is currently trading 1.82% below its 52-week high. Revenue grew by 14.73% during the most recent quarter ($2,360M vs. $2,057M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -0.47% during the same time period ($1,265M vs. $1,271M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 38.17% to 34.75% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2011-12-31 to 3 months ending 2010-12-31).

3. UIL Holdings Corporation (UIL): Operates in the energy sector in the United States. Market cap at $1.73B, most recent closing price at $34.07. The stock is currently trading 4.71% below its 52-week high. Revenue grew by 11.96% during the most recent quarter ($373.92M vs. $333.99M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -19.45% during the same time period ($188.63M vs. $234.17M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 32.35% to 28.27% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2011-12-31 to 3 months ending 2010-12-31).

4. Companhia de SaneamentoBasico do Estado de Sao Paulo (SBS): Provides water and sewage services to residential, commercial, industrial, and governmental customers in the State of Sao Paulo. Market cap at $8.91B, most recent closing price at $79.05. The stock is currently trading 2.34% below its 52-week high. Revenue grew by 10.18% during the most recent quarter ($2,592.8M vs. $2,353.25M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -27.7% during the same time period ($1,264.34M vs. $1,748.65M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 51.09% to 34.51% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2011-09-30 to 3 months ending 2010-09-30).

5. Westar Energy, Inc. (WR): Engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity. Market cap at $3.6B, most recent closing price at $28.55. The stock is currently trading 1.42% below its 52-week high. Revenue grew by 6.46% during the most recent quarter ($486.23M vs. $456.72M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -5.16% during the same time period ($231.76M vs. $244.38M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 40.62% to 36.58% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2011-12-31 to 3 months ending 2010-12-31).

6. Central Vermont Public Service Corp. (CV): Operates as an electric utility company in Vermont, the United States. Market cap at $470.59M, most recent closing price at $34.90. The stock is currently trading 2.39% below its 52-week high. Revenue grew by 5.54% during the most recent quarter ($90.33M vs. $85.59M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -4.3% during the same time period ($27.63M vs. $28.87M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 31.68% to 26.41% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2011-12-31 to 3 months ending 2010-12-31).

7. Aqua America Inc. (WTR): Operates regulated utilities that provide water or wastewater services in the United States. Market cap at $3.14B, most recent closing price at $22.53. The stock is currently trading 2.05% below its 52-week high. Revenue grew by 2.53% during the most recent quarter ($172.7M vs. $168.44M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -27.48% during the same time period ($81.06M vs. $111.77M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 37.07% to 25.3% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2011-12-31 to 3 months ending 2010-12-31).

8. CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (CNP): Operates as a public utility holding company in the United States. Market cap at $8.55B, most recent closing price at $20.24. The stock is currently trading 4.91% below its 52-week high. Revenue grew by 2.24% during the most recent quarter ($2,145M vs. $2,098M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -20.55% during the same time period ($773M vs. $973M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 37.68% to 33.08% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2011-12-31 to 3 months ending 2010-12-31).

9. Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (PNW): Provides retail and wholesale electric services primarily in the State of Arizona. Market cap at $5.23B, most recent closing price at $47.78. The stock is currently trading 1.28% below its 52-week high. Revenue grew by 1.59% during the most recent quarter ($667.89M vs. $657.43M y/y). Accounts receivable grew by -9.98% during the same time period ($286.9M vs. $318.71M y/y). Receivables, as a percentage of current assets, decreased from 31.11% to 30.% during the most recent quarter (comparing 3 months ending 2011-12-31 to 3 months ending 2010-12-31).

*Accounting data sourced from Google Finance, all other data sourced from Finviz.

Source: 9 Utilities Stocks Trading Near Highs With Strong Receivable Trends