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On Apr 19, 2013, the shares of energy holding company NiSource Inc. (NI - Analyst Report) achieved a new 52-week high of $31.10. The company’s superior midstream programs are the primary factors triggering the stock to reach a new high. It also reported favorable earnings surprises in three of the last four quarters with an average beat of 9.09%.  

NiSource’s persistent drive towards enhancing its infrastructure has served the company well. Its natural gas ventures in the transportation and storage business fetched lucrative returns in 2012. The company further plans to spend $700 million for the improvement of its assets in 2013.

The proceeds of $120.0 million gained from the asset sell-off to AGL Resources Inc. (GAS - Analyst Report) will help the company to lower its outstanding debt. NiSource managed to retain its credit rating with both Fitch’s and Standard & Poor. Both rating agencies have maintained a stable outlook on the company. This acted as an added incentive in terms of easy access to the capital markets as well as lower cost of borrowing.

Furthermore, NiSource’s solid financial position has enabled the company to successfully carry on its high-quality transmission programs like the Big Pine Gathering System as well as the combined project with Hilcorp.  

The long-term expected earnings growth rate is set at 7.6% while the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2013 reflects a projected climb of 8.51% to $1.55 from $1.43 in 2012.

The company currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Other utility stocks performing well are Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P. (BIP - Snapshot Report) and Pike Electric Corp. (PIKE - Snapshot Report). Both the stocks retain a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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