For those looking to find strong Utilities stocks, it is prudent to search for companies in the group that are outperforming their peers. Is Northwest Natural (NWN) one of those stocks right now? A quick glance at the company's year-to-date performance in comparison to the rest of the Utilities sector should help us answer this question.
Northwest Natural is a member of our Utilities group, which includes 104 different companies and currently sits at #8 in the Zacks Sector Rank. The Zacks Sector Rank considers 16 different sector groups. The average Zacks Rank of the individual stocks within the groups is measured, and the sectors are listed from best to worst.
The Zacks Rank is a proven system that emphasizes earnings estimates and estimate revisions, highlighting a variety of stocks that are displaying the right characteristics to beat the market over the next one to three months. Northwest Natural is currently sporting a Zacks Rank of #2 (Buy).
Within the past quarter, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for NWN's full-year earnings has moved 1.8% higher. This means that analyst sentiment is stronger and the stock's earnings outlook is improving.
Based on the latest available data, NWN has gained about 1.1% so far this year. Meanwhile, stocks in the Utilities group have lost about 3.8% on average. This means that Northwest Natural is performing better than its sector in terms of year-to-date returns.
One other Utilities stock that has outperformed the sector so far this year is PG&E (PCG). The stock is up 23.5% year-to-date.
The consensus estimate for PG&E's current year EPS has increased 1.1% over the past three months. The stock currently has a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
To break things down more, Northwest Natural belongs to the Utility - Gas Distribution industry, a group that includes 15 individual companies and currently sits at #149 in the Zacks Industry Rank. On average, stocks in this group have gained 12.3% this year, meaning that NWN is slightly underperforming its industry in terms of year-to-date returns.
PG&E, however, belongs to the Utility - Electric Power industry. Currently, this 58-stock industry is ranked #78. The industry has moved -3.8% so far this year.
Investors interested in the Utilities sector may want to keep a close eye on Northwest Natural and PG&E as they attempt to continue their solid performance.
Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report