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A Closer Look at... Duke Energy, Southern Company, and Progress Energy

Checking out the contrarian prospects for outperforming SO, DUK, and PGN

by 10/27/2011 1:45:30 PM
Stocks quoted in this article:

With temperatures on the decline, most Americans will soon shutter the windows and turn on the heat, if they haven't already. As such, homeowners will soon feel the wrath of the utility companies, with only holiday cheer to help curb the depression of seasonally higher energy bills. Against this backdrop, we thought it apropos to examine a trio of energy stocks on the rise -- and with more room to run, from a contrarian standpoint: The Southern Company (SO - 43.57), Duke Energy Corporation (DUK - 20.66), and Progress Energy, Inc. (PGN - 52.75).

Southern Company

Technically speaking, SO has blazed a steady path higher over the past couple of years, ushered into the black atop its ascending 10-month moving average. In fact, the stock tagged a new record high of $43.95 earlier this month, and has outperformed the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX) by about 11.5% during the past 60 sessions.

Monthly price chart of SO since July 2009

Despite the stock's stellar price action, though, not everyone on the Street has boarded SO's bullish bandwagon. On the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock sports a 10-day put/call volume ratio of 1.50, indicating that traders have bought to open more SO puts than calls during the past two weeks. What's more, this ratio registers in the 68th percentile of its annual range, pointing to a healthier-than-usual appetite for bearish bets over bullish of late.

Meanwhile, Zacks reports that only 33% of the analysts following SO consider it worthy of a "buy" or better endorsement. Likewise, Thomson Reuters pegs the consensus 12-month price target on the equity at only $42.50, representing a discount to the stock's current share price.

From a contrarian perspective, SO's stellar technical backdrop -- juxtaposed with lingering skepticism on the Street -- leaves the door wide open for more bears to capitulate to the bulls' lair. An unwinding of pessimism in the options pits, or a wave of upbeat analyst attention, could add fuel to SO's long-term fire.

Traders anticipating a continued ascent for SO may want to consider the stock's January 2012 38-strike call.

Duke Energy

Similar to SO, the shares of DUK have embarked on a quest for new highs, tagging a new multi-year peak of $20.66 just today. Guiding the security higher have been its 10-week and 32-week moving averages, which have contained all but a handful of DUK's pullbacks since July 2010.

Weekly Chart of DUK since July 2010

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