Bear market fears continue to dominate the headlines this year. Oil and China are crashing, and the western markets are being sold in anticipation of another global sell-off. Investors are checking their statements in anguish, as they are now faced with a decision to sell everything or hide in areas that are less likely to be affected. Rather than panic and hit the Sell button, investors need to be aware of options that will defend their portfolio against more selling. In a recession, people still have to stay warm and keep the lights on. The consistency of revenues based on those human needs, as opposed to wants, makes the sector favorable in down times. Gas, water and other necessary utilities companies are all considered to be recession-proof industries. These companies can benefit from slowing economic growth, as interest rates will have a tendency to stay lower. Low rates help a utility company by making their dividend look more attractive, plus it allows for cheaper borrowing. The Fed has hinted that rates will be rising, making the dividend of utilities less desirable. However, if global market pressure continues, the Fed will inevitably back off from that thought. The combination of low interest rates, high dividends and market fear make utilities a good place to hide. The Utilities Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSEARCA: XLU ) is an ETF that reflects the performance of utilities. The chart below marks the performance over the last two years versus the S&P. A closer look shows the divergence since 2016, with smart money supporting the sector. While the ETF will reduce company-specific risk, it also tends to reduce reward and dividends. Let’s take a look at four top-ranked stocks that will enhance the utility play. Idacorp (NYSE: IDA ) is an electric public utility company and a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock. The company is engaged in the generation, purchase, transmission, distribution and sale of electric energy, primarily in the areas including southern Idaho, eastern Oregon and northern Nevada. It operates gas- and coal-fired plants, but the majority of its operations rely on hydroelectric power for their generating needs. The majority of its customers include lodges, condominiums, and ski lifts and related facilities. Idacorp has a market cap of $3.4 billion, with a dividend yield of 3.01%. The company’s EPS growth was up 11.45% over the previous quarter, and it has a good record of surprising EPS to the upside. NorthWestern Corp. (NYSE: NWE ) is a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock and one of the largest providers of electricity and natural gas in the northwest quadrant of the United States. Founded in 1923, it generates and distributes electricity and natural gas to over 700,000 customers in four states, including Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. The company has a market cap of $2.6 billion and a 3.52% dividend. It sports a forward P/E of 16 and has a Zacks Style Score of “B” in Growth, with EPS growth up 34% from the previous year. While EPS estimates have been coming down lately, sales growth has been steady, an important catalyst for the company. Southern Company (NYSE: SO ) is a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock that operates as a public utility company by means of coal, nuclear, oil, gas and hydro power. The company, with over 26,000 employees, provides a broad range of energy-related services to utilities and industrial companies globally. Southern Company’s businesses include independent power projects, integrated utilities, a distribution company, and energy trading and marketing businesses outside the southeastern United States. Southern has a market cap of $43 billion and offers investors a dividend of 4.6%. EPS growth was up 7.34% from last year, showing why the company has a Zacks Style Score of “B” in Growth and Momentum. It has had an upside surprise six of the last eight times. SCANA Corporation (NYSE: SCG ) is a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stock. This is an energy-based holding company whose businesses include regulated electric and natural gas utility operations, telecommunications and other non-regulated energy-related businesses. SCANA’s subsidiaries serve electric customers in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. SCANA offers investors a 3.57 dividend, with an $8.55 billion market cap. Estimates for the company have risen 1.5% over the last 90 days, going from $3.89 to $3.95 a share. In Summary Utilities won’t hit home run, but while the pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, they offer a chance for investors to bunt their way on base. If you are fearful of more market downside, park yourself in utilities until the risks fade away. If interest rates start to rise, or when the fear of global recession is no longer present, exit the sector and add risk. Original Post
The Ivy Portfolio spreadsheet track the 10 month moving average signals for two portfolios listed in Mebane Faber’s book The Ivy Portfolio: How to Invest Like the Top Endowments and Avoid Bear Markets . Faber discusses 5, 10, and 20 security portfolios that have trading signals based on long-term moving averages. The Ivy Portfolio spreadsheet tracks both the 5 and 10 ETF Portfolios listed in Faber’s book. When a security is trading below its 10 month simple moving average, the position is listed as “Cash”. When the security is trading above its 10 month simple moving average the positions is listed as “Invested”. The spreadsheet’s signals update once daily (typically in the late evening) using dividend/split adjusted closing price from Yahoo Finance. The 10 month simple moving average is based on the most recent 10 months including the current month’s most recent daily closing price. Even though the signals update daily, it is not an endorsement to check signals daily or trade based on daily updates. It simply gives the spreadsheet more versatility for users to check at his or her convenience. The page also displays the percentage each ETF within the Ivy 10 and Ivy 5 Portfolio is above or below the current 10 month simple moving average, using both adjusted and unadjusted data. If an ETF has paid a dividend or split within the past 10 months, then when comparing the adjusted/unadjusted data you will see differences in the percent an ETF is above/below the 10 month SMA. This could also potentially impact whether an ETF is above or below its 10 month SMA. Regardless of whether you prefer the adjusted or unadjusted data, it is important to remain consistent in your approach. My preference is to use adjusted data when evaluating signals. The current signals based on December 31st’s adjusted closing prices are below. This month (NYSEARCA: VNQ ) is above its moving average and the balance of the ETFs are below their 10 month moving average. The spreadsheet also provides quarterly, half year, and yearly return data courtesy of Finviz. The return data is useful for those interested in overlaying a momentum strategy with the 10 month SMA strategy: (click to enlarge) I also provide a “Commission-Free” Ivy Portfolio spreadsheet as an added bonus. This document tracks the 10 month moving averages for four different portfolios designed for TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, Charles Schwab, and Vanguard commission-free ETF offers. Not all ETFs in each portfolio are commission free, as each broker limits the selection of commission-free ETFs and viable ETFs may not exist in each asset class. Other restrictions and limitations may apply depending on each broker. Below are the 10 month moving average signals (using adjusted price data) for the commission-free portfolios: (click to enlarge) (click to enlarge) Disclosure: None
Summary CLNE’s margin has improved in the past year despite lower revenue as its margin/gallon is steady due to a diversified base of fleet operators and protection from the retail price. The price of natural gas/diesel gallon equivalent was $0.27 last month, which is way cheaper than diesel and gasoline, which is why CLNE’s volumes will continue increasing. CLNE’s natural gas volumes will increase as the addressable market grows from 74 million gallons last year to 1 billion gallons of diesel equivalent in 2018. CLNE could also benefit from an improvement in natural gas pricing as LNG exports from the U.S. begin next year, leading to lower oversupply and a move toward international pricing. The decline in natural prices has put the brakes on Clean Energy Fuels’ (NASDAQ: CLNE ) performance this year. After recording consistent top line growth until 2014, the company’s top line performance has slid this year. This is evident from the chart given below: Don’t miss the positives However, the above chart also shows that despite the drop in its top line, Clean Energy has managed to improve its margin profile since the downturn in natural gas pricing began. This is an impressive fact if we consider that low natural gas prices should have ideally pulled down Clean Energy Fuels’ margin profile, but the company has managed to keep its margin per gallon intact. For instance, last quarter, Clean Energy’s gross margin was $0.26 per gasoline gallon equivalent, down just $0.02 per gasoline gallon equivalent from last year. This is impressive if we consider that prices have dropped massively in the past year. The reason why Clean Energy’s margins have held steady in these difficult times is because the company has a diversified base of fleet operators that use its natural gas fuel volumes, and these are protected to some extent from the retail price due to the contracts in place. More importantly, it should also be noted that despite lower diesel prices, the use of natural gas fuel has not dropped as fleet operators have continued adding more NGVs to their fleets. This is clearly reflected by the fact that Clean Energy’s volumes delivered in the previous quarter grew 17% year-over-year. Now, on taking a closer look, it becomes clear that natural gas is still a cheaper fuel option than diesel despite the decline in diesel prices this year. Take a look at the following table for more clarity: Source: Westport Innovations Hence, the price of natural gas per diesel gallon equivalent stood at $0.27 last month, which is lower than the regular gasoline price of $2.059 per gallon and diesel price of $2.421 per gallon last month. So, it is not surprising to see that Clean Energy has seen an increase in its volumes delivered this year even though diesel prices have weakened, which lowers the incentive of switching to natural gas fuel for fleet operators. Why Clean Energy’s drop is an opportunity As discussed above, Clean Energy is seeing both volume and margin growth, while natural gas has an advantage over diesel in terms of both costs and emissions. As a result, the adoption of natural gas-powered trucks and buses should continue increasing going forward. For instance, in the past few years, the adoption of CNG trucks in the refuse transit market has increased, as shown below. More importantly, the adoption of heavy-duty LNG trucks as a percentage of overall sales will increase in the coming years, leading to an increase in gallons delivered from 74 million last year to 1 billion in 2018: (click to enlarge) Source: Clean Energy Fuels Hence, due to the advantages of natural gas, its adoption will increase going forward and help Clean Energy amplify its volumes delivered. However, as we saw earlier in the article, the steep drop in the price of natural gas has made it difficult for Clean Energy to grow revenue, but this might change next year onward as LNG shipments from the U.S. start gaining traction next year. By 2020, Australia and the U.S. are expected to make up for almost the entire 50% increase in global LNG trade, with the latter expecting to become an LNG exporter on the level of Qatar. Now, if we consider that the supply situation in the global LNG market is weak and the U.S. is aggressively building its LNG export infrastructure as shown in the chart below, the oversupply situation in the U.S. natural gas market will ease going forward as exports begin. Source: Cheniere Energy Also, due to these exports, the price of natural gas in the U.S. will move closer to international levels, which are higher, and eventually lead to better natural gas pricing in the U.S. as well. As a result, Clean Energy will see an increase in both revenue and margins going forward. Conclusion The performance of Clean Energy Fuels on the stock market has been no less than disappointing this year, but there are positives that we should not miss. The company’s volumes and margins are increasing, while a potential improvement in natural gas prices will be another tailwind. So, it seems like a prudent idea to buy shares of Clean Energy Fuels on the drop as it can deliver gains in the long run.