Although customers continue to flock from the so-called Big Six energy providers, investors have ploughed back into Centrica(LSE: CNA) with gusto following OPEC's momentous supply freeze in late November.
Eager to snap up a bargain following a steady share price fall, the energy giant has seen its market value rise 20% in the days running up to the accord, fuelling hopes that profits at Centrica Energy could be about to about to ride higher on the back of a recovering crude price.
But black gold prices have stagnated above the $50 per barrel marker as US shale producers ramp up activity and oil consumption remains less-than-robust. Indeed, the Energy Information Administration reduced its demand forecasts for 2017 and 2018 just this week.
Further disappointing fundamental news could send Centrica's share price lower again, but as I've mentioned, this isn't the British Gas owner's only problem as the rising army of small, promotion-led independent suppliers chip away at its retail customer base.
Data from trade association Energy UK has shown the number of switchers picking up again in recent months, and as inflationary pressures rise in 2017 I expect Centrica to remain on the defensive.
These factors keep its long-term earnings outlook on an uncertain footing, in my opinion, and a forward P/E ratio of 13.9 times fails to reflect its high risk profile.
Meanwhile, I reckon the firm's hefty debt pile, capex-heavy operations and poor revenues outlook could prompt further dividend cuts, in turn placing a 5.4% dividend yield for 2017 in serious jeopardy.
A home banker?
While macroeconomic turbulence in the UK and Asia could rock earnings growth at HSBC Holdings (LSE: HSBA) in the near term, for patient investors I reckon the banking colossus could provide very decent shareholder returns.
The business trades on a P/E ratio of 13.5 times for 2017 which, it could be argued, is good value given the company's exceptional exposure to emerging and developed economies alike.
Indeed, HSBC could see profits explode in the years ahead as rising financial might in Asia propels demand for financial products. And an expected stream of Federal Reserve interest rate rises could help take the sting out of economic choppiness in its core regions in the meantime.
But it's in the dividend stakes where HSBC sets itself apart. City analysts expect the dividend to remain broadly level through to 2018, at 51 US cents per share, as efforts to build up the balance sheet continue. This means the bank carries a 6% yield through to the end of next year.
And payouts at HSBC could potentially gain traction further out as cost-cutting measures click through the gears, while regulatory changes have given the bank more wiggle room in the balance sheet department. This helped the firm's CET1 ratio rise to a healthy 13.9% as of September from 12.1% three months earlier.
Don't get me wrong, the uncertain economic and political environment means HSBC is not without its own fair share of risk. But arguably the bank's pan-global presence gives it a better growth platform than many of its British peers, and it's thus worthy of serious attention at current prices.
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Royston Wild has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Centrica and HSBC Holdings. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.