The bond market took the day off on Friday, but is back to work today and headed lower again. The 10-year Treasury yield is up five basis points to 2.205% (it ran all the way up to 2.28% earlier).
The S&P 500 is down just a hair, but he XLU is lower by 0.6%.
Among the large-cap utility movers are Dominion Resources -1.15%, Duke Energy -1.15%, Con Ed -1.2%, National Grid -3.7%, Sempra Energy -1.5%, Southern Co. -0.75%. Fading the downward action are Exelon +1.6% and Ameren +0.75%.
Companies that sell electricity to utilities have reported slim profits or losses for Q3 compared to a year ago, as they continue to be hurt by falling prices for wholesale power and natural gas.
NRG Energy's (NRG +13%) Q3 net earnings fell by $203M, due to lower energy margins and costs related to paying down debt, on 11% less revenue of $3.95B; CEO Mauricio Gutierrez says its generation business "performed well during some very challenging market conditions."
Dynegy (DYN +8.6%) posted a Q3 loss of $249M, a 10x larger loss than in the year-ago quarter, saying it aims to navigate the low prices by buying plants and streamlining operations as well as ramping up lobbying efforts with regulators, including opposing New York's plan to subsidize money-losing nuclear power plants to keep them operating.
Calpine (CPN +2.7%) last week reported Q3 net earnings of $295M, up 8% Y/Y, but net profit for the first nine months of the year was just $68M, down 76% Y/Y.
Exelon (EXC +0.7%) has been faring better than some rivals since it also owns regulated utilities, which offer more stable profits.
"It's an adverse environment because of the low gas prices, and it's aggravated by the growth of renewables," says Hugh Wynne at investment research firm SSR.
In the green though is the banking sector - (KBE +0.2%), (KRE +0.4%) - which has been awaiting a real move higher in rates for years. A big move on the long end while short rates hold (for now) is an added boost as it widens the yield curve.
Bank of America (BAC +0.4%), Citigroup (C +0.4%), JPMorgan (JPM +0.4%), Wells Fargo (WFC +0.5%), PNC Financial (PNC +0.5%), Fifth Third (FITB +0.9%), U.S. Bancorp (USB +1.2%), BB& T(BBT +0.7%)
Other high-yield beneficiaries include: MetLife (MET +0.9%), Lincoln Financial (LNC +1.3%), Schwab (SCHW +0.4%), Voya Financial (VOYA +0.9%).
The amount of electricity generated by U.S. nuclear reactors hit its lowest seasonal level since 2006, held down by malfunctions and closures tied to Hurricane Matthew as well as routine maintenance.
The outages mean natural gas use by generators likely will rise as grid operators rush to replace lost supplies at a time of unseasonably warm temperatures, which could boost power prices.
Among the plants shuttered was Dominion's (NYSE:D) Surry 2 nuclear power plant in Virginia, which closed due to a system error, and NextEra Energy's (NYSE:NEE) St. Lucie 2 reactor in Florida, which went offline as a safety measure ahead of the hurricane.
The closures come as 23 nuclear units, accounting for ~23% of total U.S. capacity, are scheduled to close to replace spent fuel rods in the three months through November.
One of the biggest Brexit beneficiaries is the utilities sector, as the Dow Jones Utility Average and the SPDR Utilities Select Sector ETF both surged to new record highs as Treasury yields tumble to multiyear lows.
The implied annual dividend yield for the Dow utilities is 3.08% and 3.18% for the utilities ETF, more than double the 10-year Treasury yield.
J.P. Morgan equity strategists said today that they believe bond yields "are not going anywhere but lower,” and thus remain overweight on the utilities sector.
At least six Dow utilities components posted record closes: NEE +3.3%, EIX +2.5%, AWK +2.4%, ED +1.9%, AEP +1.8%, PCG +0.8%.
Among other major utilities in today's trade: SO +1.9%, DUK +1.9%, SCG +1.6%, ETR +1.1%, D +1%, AEE +1%, XEL +0.9%, SRE +0.9%, PEG +0.7%, FE +0.7%, EXC +0.6%.
A sharp drop in long-term rates and vanquished expectations for even one rate hike this year has income players bidding up the prices of utility stocks (XLU +0.7%) and certain REITs even as the major average fall more than 2% post-Brexit.
A check of Fed Funds futures finds traders not fully pricing in a 25 basis point rate hike until 2018!
The mortgage REIT sector (REM +0.5%) welcomes the news, with players like Annaly (NLY +1.7%), American Capital Agency (AGNC +1.1%), Two Harbors (TWO +1.7%), and Chimera (CIM +1.3%) leading the way. Western Asset Mortgage (WMC -0.8%) is a laggard after slashing its dividend by more than 30% last night.
Equity REITs are decidedly mixed. Retail names like Realty Income (O +2.4%), National Retail (NNN +2%), and Vereit (VER +0.9%) are higher, as are healthcare players like HCP (HCP +1.2%) and Medical Properties Trust (MPW +0.1). Apartment REITs are mostly lower, as are mall operators like Simon Property (SPG -0.8%) and General Growth (GGP -0.7%).
The dollar is surging post-Brexit, however, and that's taking a chunk out of the hotel REITs: Hospitality Properties (HPT -1.5%), Sunstone Hotel (SHO -2.7%), LaSalle (LHO -3.8%), Pebblebrook (PEB -2.4%), RLJ Lodging (RLJ -2.5%).
Of particular interest given he's on stage at Ira Sohn following hard-money advocate Stan Druckenmiller (hike rates, but gold), Jeff Gundlach thinks the idea of the Fed talking about higher rates while cutting growth forecasts makes no sense.
He's got a pair trade idea: Buy mortgage REITs (NYSEARCA:REM) and sell utilities (NYSEARCA:XLU). The strategy is based on the idea that the valuations of unloved and "cheap" mREITs, and over-loved and "pricey" utilities will converge.
Low-volatility stocks (of which utilities fit the bill) are an oxymoron, says Gundlach. Buying at these prices is like the old game "Dynamite Shack."
The Obama administration yesterday defended its Clean Power Plan regulation limiting carbon emissions from power plants, telling the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that the rule is well within the bounds of its authority.
The Clean Air Act provides the EPA with “well-established authority to abate threats to public health and welfare by limiting the amount of air pollution that power plants pump into the atmosphere,” the agency wrote in a brief submitted to the court, and that the regulation was critical to addressing what it said was the most important environmental challenge facing the U.S.
The regulation would require a 32% cut in power plant carbon emissions by 2030, based on 2005 levels, by calling on states to shift their power sources from coal-fired plants to cleaner sources such as renewable sources and natural gas.
The D.C. Circuit will hear oral arguments on the legality of the regulation in June; whichever side loses is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which blocked the rule in February, sending it back to the D.C. court .
In a victory for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court yesterday denied a request by states seeking to block an EPA regulation cutting mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants.
Chief Justice Roberts denied the states’ request without comment and without referring it to the other justices, apparently believing the request did not merit further action.
The decision comes three weeks after the full Supreme Court blocked Obama's Clean Power Plan for limiting greenhouse gas pollution from coal plants, which opponents read as a sign the court was willing to halt other regulations while they undergo changes and review.
But legal experts say Roberts' decision yesterday signaled opponents may not be successful in further attempts to halt environmental rules while they are still subject to legal challenges.
Executives from American Electric Power (AEP +1.2%) and Xcel Energy (XEL +1.1%) both say they believe a federal crackdown on carbon emissions is coming sooner or later, regardless of whether Pres. Obama's Clean Power Plan holds up in court.
"Carbon regulation is not going away," AEP's manager of strategic policy analysis tells the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, saying his company is still moving ahead to figure out the best way to comply.
States such as Texas and West Virginia, which have led legal opposition to Obama’s plan, take the Supreme Court’s recent decision as a sign the rule ultimately will be struck down, while states including Massachusetts, Arizona and Virginia have said they will move ahead anyway.
The current situation causes uncertainty for utilities that operate across multiple states; for example, Xcel must balance policies in Minnesota, which leans toward expanding clean energy, against those in Texas.
Analysts say the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia over the weekend may have improved the likelihood that Pres. Obama's Clean Power Plan will survive a judicial review.
Last week, the Court voted 5-4 to delay the EPA's scheduled rollout of Obama's plan to dramatically cut carbon emissions from the power industry; the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals likely will rule this fall on a challenge to the plan, with the conventional wisdom expecting the three-member court panel to rule favorably for the White House, setting up an appeal to the Supreme Court.
With the death of Scalia, a conservative voice on the court with a history of limiting government regulation, the chances of the plan being upheld would seem to have improved; an eight-member Court split 4-4 would allow the lower court ruling to stand, and it is far from certain that a Republican will be elected in November and name Scalia's replacement or that delaying tactics by Republican Senators will prove successful.
Environmental attorney Brian Potts had placed the odds of the Clean Power Plan surviving judicial review at less than 10%; with Scalia’s death, he places the likelihood at greater than 75%.
The U.S. Supreme Court blocks Pres. Obama's planned new federal regulation that would cut emissions from power plants, halting at least for now the administration's sweeping effort to combat climate change.
The justices heeded calls from utilities, coal miners and more than two dozen states to halt the EPA rule while court challenges go forward.
The delay will last at least until a D.C. appeals court rules on the plan, probably later this year after it hears arguments in June; meanwhile, the EPA will not be able to enforce a Sept. 6 deadline for states to either submit their emission reduction plans or request a two-year extension.