UTILITIES: Shock from Con Ed

If there is one thing an electric utility is supposed never to do, it is omit a quarterly dividend; investors buy utility stocks primarily to get those dividends. Last week the unthinkable happened: New York's Consolidated Edison Co., the biggest U.S. power generator, skipped its dividend for the first time in its 89-year history. The news gave Wall Street a high-voltage shock. Con Ed stock promptly lost a third of its value, dropping from 18 to 12 (it closed the week at 12⅜), and the dive dragged down prices of many other utility stocks.

Although Con Ed's first-quarter profits dropped...