Tallahassee Journal

Utilities power up as S&P 500 powers down

Utilities power up as S&P 500 powers down

Investors looking for a hiding place in a tough market for stocks in January found it in the utility sector, which gained 2.3%, a solid gain compared to the S&P 500’s 3.1% drop.alg-standard-and-poors-jpg

Utilities were also the top-performing sector in 2014, gaining 24.3%. The sector is attractive in tough market environments, due in large part to its dividend yield of 3.3%, which is fatter than the 2.1% yield for the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index and nearly double the current yield on the 10-year Treasury note.

Health care, another sector deemed “defensive,” was the only other of the 10 major sectors in the S&P 500 stock index to finish January in the black, edging 1.2% higher. Financials took the biggest hit, tumbling nearly 7% and stocks in the energy sector, which was hurt by a nearly 11% decline in  oil prices, declined nearly 5%.

Stocks were sideswiped by a business slowdown in the oil patch, renewed fears related to Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone and a market still adjusting to the prospect of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates later this year. A strong U.S. dollar also hurt the profitability of U.S. multinationals.