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Summer is notoriously tough for equity investors. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise utilities are among Q3's top performing stocks.

Thanks to data from The Seasonal Investor, we can see just how strong traditionally defensive utilities are next quarter.

Over the past 10 years, the utilities ETF (XLU) has finished Q3 higher 7 times. In the past 5 years, it's finished higher 4 times.

ETF

# Up

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

(Past 5)

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Average

XLU

4

1.29%

-17.63%

6.24%

12.17%

1.46%

0.71%

For comparison, the S&P 500 (SPY) and the S&P 400 (MDY) have finished the quarter higher 6 and 4 of the past 10 years, respectively.

ETF

# Up

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

(Past 10)

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Average

SPY

6

-16.97%

2.78%

-2.02%

3.67%

5.41%

1.91%

-8.84%

15.38%

11.17%

-13.81%

-0.13%

MDY

4

-16.90%

6.63%

-2.27%

4.78%

-0.85%

-1.07%

-11.15%

19.44%

12.94%

-19.77%

-0.82%

For investors looking to improve returns beyond the ETF, the following utilities boast the best individual seasonal trends for the coming three months.

Company

Symbol

INDUSTRY

# Up

# Up

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

Q3

10 Year Q3

5 Year Q3

(Past 5)

(Past 10)

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Average

Average

E Q T Corp.

EQT

GAS UTILITIES

4

9

5.11%

-46.65%

22.71%

0.34%

1.96%

1.29%

-3.30%

Southern CO.

SO

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

5

9

7.02%

9.22%

3.05%

13.31%

6.17%

5.75%

7.75%

Xcel Energy

XEL

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

5

9

6.35%

0.70%

5.82%

12.71%

2.69%

0.45%

5.66%

American Electric

AEP

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

4

8

3.17%

-6.99%

8.74%

13.50%

2.20%

1.19%

4.12%

California Water

CWT

WATER UTILITIES

4

8

3.48%

18.48%

6.54%

4.39%

-4.55%

4.60%

5.67%

Consolidated Edison

ED

DIVERSIFIED UTILITIES

5

8

3.89%

11.46%

11.02%

13.29%

8.32%

5.84%

9.59%

Laclede

LG

GAS UTILITIES

4

8

2.44%

21.12%

-1.79%

5.09%

3.48%

3.86%

6.07%

P G & E

PCG

DIVERSIFIED UTILITIES

4

8

6.30%

-4.69%

6.41%

11.60%

1.73%

1.74%

4.27%

Progress Energy

PGN

ELECTRIC UTILITIES

5

8

4.12%

4.68%

4.98%

15.00%

9.09%

2.49%

7.58%

Piedmont

PNY

GAS UTILITIES

4

8

2.76%

23.15%

0.41%

15.78%

-3.60%

5.20%

7.70%

Scana Corp

SCG

DIVERSIFIED UTILITIES

5

8

2.36%

6.49%

8.96%

14.09%

4.03%

3.11%

7.19%

For those interested in dividend investing, here are the current dividend yields for each of these utilities too.

Symbol

Dividend Yield

EQT

1.70%

SO

4.20%

XEL

3.90%

AEP

4.80%

CWT

3.50%

ED

3.90%

LG

4.30%

PCG

4.10%

PGN

4.10%

PNY

3.70%

SCG

4.20%

Average

3.85%

Given markets typically stumble in summer, sprinkling some utilities into portfolio's may offset some risk next quarter.

Source: Utilities: Summer's Safe Haven