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Elliott Gue knows energy. Since earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of London, Elliott has dedicated himself to learning the ins and outs of this dynamic sector, scouring trade magazines, attending industry conferences, touring facilities and meeting with management teams.

Elliott Gue’s knowledge of the energy sector and prescient investment calls prompted the official program of the 2008 G-8 Summit in Tokyo to call him “the world’s leading energy strategist.”

He has also appeared on CNBC and Bloomberg TV and has been quoted in a number of major publications, including Barron’s, Forbes and the Washington Post. Elliott Gue’s expertise and track record of success have also made him a sought-after speaker at MoneyShows and events hosted by the Association of Individual Investors.

Elliott Gue also contributed chapters on developments in global energy markets to two books published by the FT Press, The Silk Road to Riches: How You Can Profit by Investing in Asia’s Newfound Prosperity and Rise of the State: Profitable Investing and Geopolitics in the 21st Century.

Prior to founding the Capitalist Times, Elliott Gue shared his expertise and stock-picking abilities with individual investors in two highly regarded research publications, MLP Profits and The Energy Strategist, as well as long-running financial advisory Personal Finance.

In October 2012, Elliott Gue launched the Energy & Income Advisor, a semimonthly online newsletter that’s dedicated to uncovering the most profitable opportunities in the energy sector, from growth stocks to high-yielding utilities, royalty trusts and master limited partnerships.

The masthead may have changed, but subscribers can expect Elliott Gue to deliver the same high-quality analysis and rational assessment of investment opportunities in the energy patch.

Articles

Chemical Reaction

One of the most important features of the US shale oil and gas revolution has been the rolling wave of oversupply that has moved through the energy value chain, creating market imbalances and distorting long-standing price relationships between various hydrocarbons.

Over the past several years, oil and gas companies’ overzealous production of natural gas and natural gas liquids has restored the fortunes of domestic petrochemical producers, an energy-intensive industry that relies on these commodities to generate power and as feedstock.

Within this space, olefin producers have benefited the most thus far, thanks to extraordinarily low feedstock prices. But the multiyear boom in profit margins for US polyethylene producers appears to be winding down, with the baton of profitability likely to move further downstream.

Midyear Outlook: Top-Down View

At the end of 2016, Wall Street analysts’ median forecast called for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) to average $56 per barrel in the third quarter of 2017 and for Brent to approach $60 per barrel by early 2018.

Whereas most investors cheered OPEC, Russia and a handful of other oil-producing countries’ “historic” agreement to cut output, we took a less sanguine outlook in an Alert issued on Dec. 12, 2016:

OPEC would lose credibility next year as the regulator of the global oil market. Meanwhile, WTI will range between $40 and $60 per barrel for at least the next two to three years. In the near term, we continue to expect WTI to tumble to less than $40 per barrel, once these realities become apparent.

In subsequent writings, we called for oil prices to spend much of the next two years between $45 and $55 per barrel, with spikes outside that range ultimately proving to be relatively short-lived.

This macro view has played out thus far, with sentiment on the efficacy of OPEC’s production cut beginning to sour in March, reflecting concerns about the rapid growth in US oil output in the first half of 2017. Against this backdrop, WTI tumbled to about $42 per barrel in June, before enjoying a modest oversold bounce.

With second-quarter earnings season set to begin in earnest later this month, we update take advantage of the pause before the deluge to review and update our outlooks for commodity prices and energy stocks.

Oil: An Out-of-Consensus Outlook

After OPEC and other oil-producing countries announced an “historic” production cut in fall 2016, our out-of-consensus outlook called for the recovery in US oil output to surprise to the upside and drag prices lower. This forecast has played out thus far and has become the consensus view. We lean against the crowd once more and explain why oil prices could recover to $50 per barrel or more later this year.

Upstream Strategy

Although our outlook for oil prices and the US energy patch favors an overweight position in core midstream holdings, nimble investors can generate alpha in upstream names by buying when oil prices retreat to the low end of their range and taking some profits off the table when they recover. Timing these moves is easier said than done. We highlight our favorite upstream stocks and dream prices to help instill discipline on the buyside.

The Lay of the Land

After OPEC and other major oil-producing countries agreed to curb production in fall 2016, specialist and generalist portfolio managers alike bet heavily on West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rallying to at least $60 per barrel this year.

This shot of confidence prompted investors to move down the quality chain in the search for value and alpha, with marginal equities rallying hard and high-yield energy bonds acting as though the 2014 collapse in oil prices was an aberration, never to be repeated.

However, in 2017, the story has shifted to how the surge in US oil output and stepped-up drilling and completion activity in prolific shale plays—abetted by upstream operators’ aggressive hedging when WTI fetched more than $50 per barrel—have threatened to overwhelm the extended OPEC and non-OPEC supply cuts.

Two weeks of disappointing data on US oil and refined-product inventories have reinforced the market’s negative sentiment toward WTI and energy stocks, while the International Energy Agency’s most recent forecast called for growth in non-OPEC output—led by the US—to offset projected growth in global demand next year.

A string of bullish inventory reports from the Energy Information Administration with larger-than-expected drawdowns in crude and refined-product inventories—a distinct possibility during the summer driving season, a period of strong demand—could catalyze a near-term pop in energy stocks and oil prices.

But ultimately the market will need to come to grips with a US onshore rig count that has increased by 425 drilling units since May 2016 and the Energy Information Administration’s (likely conservative) projections that domestic oil output will increase by an average of 340,000 barrels per day this year and 500,000 barrels per day in 2018.

At this point in the recovery, the US onshore rig count sits at levels (about 900) that Halliburton’s (NYSE: HAL) former CEO, Jeff Miller, last year asserted would have the equivalent productivity of about 2,000 drilling units at the previous cycle’s peak.

Barring further supply cuts from OPEC or security-related disruptions, oil prices could adjust to levels—potentially in the $30s per barrels—that would prompt the US shale complex to rein in drilling and completion activity.

A decline in the US onshore rig count would be the first sign of a US response, while a moderation in the pace at which the industry works off the inventory of drilled wells awaiting completion would also help.

Despite the near-term uncertainty and volatility in the energy sector, we can draw several firm conclusions from developments during the previous down-cycle and the recent up-cycle that will inform our investment strategy in the near term and long term.

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  • Live Chat with

    Elliott and Roger on Jul. 27, 2017

  • Portfolios & Ratings

    • Model Portfolios

      Balanced portfolios of energy stocks for aggressive and conservative investors.

    • Coverage Universe

      Our take on more than 50 energy-related equities, from upstream to downstream and everything in between.

    • MLP Ratings

      Our assessment of every energy-related master limited partnership.

    • International Coverage Universe

      Roger Conrad’s coverage of more than 70 dividend-paying energy names.

    Experts

    • Roger S. Conrad

      Founder and Chief Analyst: Capitalist Times and Energy & Income Advisor

    • Elliott H. Gue

      Founder and Chief Analyst: Capitalist Times and Energy & Income Advisor

    • Peter Staas

      Managing Editor: Capitalist Times and Energy & Income Advisor