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Despite a Strong Market Rally, Utilities Fall this Year

Con Edison
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Con Edison

After rising to a new 4-year high last month, utilities are now the only large S&P sector trading in the red this year.

The market rally since early June has lifted the S&P 500 index to a new 4.5 year high, up about 14 percent in 3 months.

But as the bulls take over the reigns, defensive names such as utilities and consumer staples have lagged.

Ahead of the 2012 election, some investors appear to shied away from some of these stocks as the Bush-era 15 percent tax rate for dividends is set to expire Dec. 31, and a hike may be on the horizon.

Companies such as Exelon , which is down 18 percent this year, have also been affected by weakening power prices.

Without climate change legislation, a 26 percent drop in natural gas prices in the last 12 months, and a glut of wind power, certain areas such as nuclear power are now less competitive.

Despite those factors, three names in the sector have managed to post gains greater than 10 percent in 2012: NRG Energy , Sempra Energy and NextEra Energy Capital .

Here is a look at the biggest drags in the utilities sector this year.

*Price % change for 2012.

bythenumbers.cnbc.com