However hard the market slams a stock, there's always the chance it'll come bouncing right back. We'll consult our Motley Fool CAPS community to find shares on the rebound, examining one specific sector of the economy in search of companies with rising CAPS ratings.          

There are 122 stocks listed under utilities in the CAPS' screener, but we've found more than a few that are well-respected with four- and five-star ratings. Those accolades mean our 170,000 CAPS members are confident that these stocks will beat the market in the months ahead, but let's see what members are saying about the ones below:


CAPS Rating Today
(out of 5)

Recent Price

52-Week Price

Estimated 5-Year
Growth Rate

Clean Energy Fuels (Nasdaq: CLNE)





Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK)










Source: Motley Fool CAPS; Yahoo! Finance.

The markets may be feeling better about the economy after a few reports have offset the drumbeat of negativism we've seen, and with the S&P 500 up 7% over last year, CAPS utility stocks slightly underperformed. The average stock is up 6.8% from the year-ago period. Of course, holding back those returns were performances like those by RRI Energy (NYSE: RRI), which was off 43%, and A-Power Energy Systems (Nasdaq: APWR), which fell 35%.

So let's take a closer look at why investors think that some of these other companies won't be jumping from the frying pan into the fire now that the markets are roiled again.

Some spring in its step
After agreeing to buy the U.S. assets of German utility operator E.On for $7.6 billion, PPL has struggled to help investors make sense of the acquisition. Its shares sunk sharply after the deal was announced, and only by fits and starts -- and suffering through dilution and a lackluster earnings performance -- has it managed to recoup its losses.

PPL is heavily indebted and the cash portion of the purchase price ($6.7 billion) amounted to two-thirds of its market cap at the time. It had to raise additional cash to finance the deal through equity offerings this past summer and it just sold off some non-core assets for $381 million. With analysts expecting rising coal transportation costs to weigh on earnings, PPL will need a good jolt to get it growing again.

Circuit overload
If your local utility raised rates, wouldn't you like to be able to opt out of the increases? Under new EPA rules, Duke Energy may be required to invest in additional capital expenditure selling at its Ohio coal facilities, but according to one analyst, it might not be able to fully recoup those expenses as ratepayers may be able to forgo paying them. Coupled with higher taxes on its wind farm projects out in Wyoming, and Duke is suddenly looking like it's about to short-circuit, too. That's why CAPS member soonipi says it may look like a nice dividend play now, but there are long-term headwinds that may impede progress.

Longer term (2 years), however, capital requirements related to an aging fleet of power plants and more stringent environmental regulations, along with limited opportunities for revenue growth, will put severe pressure on DUK's cash flow and EPS making continued growth in the dividend very challenging.

Driving a bargain
The problem Duke is facing in Wyoming may be one all wind power producers are suddenly confronted with. Wyoming, for example, has a state use and sales tax exemption on the books that was used to lure developers to the state, but is due to expire next year. As one state lawmaker noted, "Why do they need an exemption? Does anybody think they're not going to develop in southeast Wyoming?"

That kind of mind-set could be why billionaire investor Boone Pickens is focusing more on the natural gas operations of Clean Energy Fuels and less on wind power projects. His decision to slash orders for turbines earlier this year made headlines. Not that natural gas doesn't have issues.

Devon Energy (NYE: DVN), Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC), and other producers continue drilling for more gas despite an inventory glut, depressing prices for the fuel. While that would seem to benefit Clean Energy's goal of a nation of cars fueled by natural gas, there's no real volume of vehicles in production right now to take advantage of it. If producers are right that gas prices will soon rebound, by the time there are any appreciable numbers of natural gas cars on the road may be too late.

That hasn't stopped 96% of the CAPS members rating the natural gas provider from believing it will outperform the broad market averages. You can pump your own opinion onto the Clean Energy Fuels CAPS page and let us now if nat gas backers have ingested too much fumes.

The ball's in your court
There are many factors that go into whether a stock is a buy or sell, so it pays to start your own research on these stocks on Motley Fool CAPS. Read a company's financial reports, scrutinize key data and charts, and examine the comments your fellow investors have made all from a stock's CAPS page. Head over to CAPS today and share your thoughts with other investor analysts on whether you think these stocks are ready to bound higher.

Duke Energy is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Devon Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey doesn't have a financial position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article. You can see his holdings here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.