People watch stocks for different reasons -- they're waiting for a dip in price, watching for a specific catalyst, gathering all the news and information that might affect stocks they already own, or considering a sell. Regardless of their motivation, we can better understand market sentiment by seeing who's watching what. With the Fool's free My Watchlist service, we have tens of thousands of people telling us the businesses that have, for whatever reason, piqued their interest.

With this data we have come up with a new metric, watch interest, to inform investors what stocks their peers keep tabs on in each industry. In the case of the gas-utility industry, watch interest is the percentage of people keeping an eye on gas utilities stocks in general who are specifically watching each company. By looking at what stocks people are most interested in within an industry, you can get ahead of the curve by finding hot stocks that you might have otherwise overlooked.

The most-watched gas utility is…
Looking at the aggregate data, we see that Suburban Propane Partners (NYSE: SPH) is above the rest in terms of watch interest, and for good reason. As CAPS player ts2006 wrote earlier this year: "excellent track record and return to shareholder - growth and dividend!"

Here are the rest of the top 15 most-watched companies in the industry, with their watch interest and the stocks' CAPS rating to show the sentiment of our investing community.



Market Cap (Millions)

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Watch Interest

1 Suburban Propane Partners $1,569 ***** 14.4%
2 Ferrellgas Partners (NYSE: FGP) $1,515 ** 12.6%
3 Questar (NYSE: STR) $3,241 **** 8.9%
4 AmeriGas Partners (NYSE: APU) $2,438 **** 8.3%
5 China Natural Gas $64 *** 7.6%
6 Piedmont Natural Gas (NYSE: PNY) $2,072 **** 6.1%
7 AGL Resources (NYSE: AGL) $3,130 ***** 5.6%
8 Star Gas Partners (NYSE: SGU) $347 ***** 4.8%
9 ONEOK (NYSE: OKE) $7,159 **** 3.8%
10 UGI (NYSE: UGI) $3,293 ***** 3.8%
11 Atmos Energy (NYSE: ATO) $3,044 *** 3.5%
12 National Fuel Gas (NYSE: NFG) $5,788 **** 3.2%
13 Nicor (NYSE: GAS) $2,457 *** 2.4%
14 Northwest Natural Gas (NYSE: NWN) $1,174 ***** 2.3%
15 WGL Holdings (NYSE: WGL) $1,970 **** 1.9%

Sources: The Motley Fool, Motley Fool CAPS.

Whether you're keeping an eye on the industry stalwarts like Suburban Propane Partners or are watching an up-and-comer like AGL Resources, it pays to watch. We can help you keep tabs on your companies with My Watchlist, our free, personalized stock-tracking service. Get started now!

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.