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This high-yielding sector is a safe haven no more: Traders

Utilities stocks are safe havens no more and investors should be looking elsewhere for yield, according to some traders.

The utilities-tracking ETF (XLU) was down for an eighth-straight session Monday, when it tumbled more than 1 percent in morning trading. This fall is in sharp contrast to the first half of the year, when the XLU surged more than 22 percent heading into July.

The XLU's decline over the summer has led Erin Gibbs, equity chief investment officer at S&P Global, to caution investors that now is not the time to buy utilities stocks.

"We're getting used to lower interest rates, and we definitely see an investor behavior of more of a risk-on behavior going to more cyclical stocks," Gibbs said Friday on CNBC's "Trading Nation." "I think the utilities are ripe for a pullback. Not only are their valuations very close to what the S&P already offers, they're pretty much all close to their target prices on the underlying stocks."

In fact, the XLU has dropped 9 percent since the beginning of July, to its lowest in just over four months. The fall, according to Phillip Streible, senior market strategist at RJO Futures, can be attributed to what's going on with the XLU's two biggest components: electricity and natural gas stocks.

According to Streible, electricity has recently been hit with more regulatory costs while natural gas rig counts have picked up as of late. Both could end up weighing even more on the utilities sector, especially ahead of a potential Federal Reserve rate hike in December.

"A lot of people are playing [utilities] because they're not getting interest rate return anywhere else, that's why they're investing in it for that dividend yield," Streible said Friday on "Trading Nation." "As the Fed raises rates here, you may see a shift out of it."

The XLU is currently still up more than 11 percent year to date, even though the ETF has hit its lowest level since the end of May.


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Brian Sullivan

Brian Sullivan is co-anchor of CNBC's "Power Lunch" (M-F,1PM-3PM ET), one of the network's longest running programs, as well as the host of the daily investing program "Trading Nation." He is also a frequent guest on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and other NBC properties.

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