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Investing Topics: E&P Companies

What Drives Performance for Exploration & Production Companies?

When I analyze any industry group I like to start by attempting to answer one simple question:

What are investors looking for?

In other words, it’s crucial to understand which quantitative metrics and/or stock characteristics drive stock market returns over time. Answer that one question and you’ll be well-positioned to select stocks that outperform their peers and the broader market.

However, these key metrics change over time and nothing drives changes in investor preferences quite like a bear market. That’s certainly been the case for the upstream energy industry in the wake of the big 2014 to 2017 bear market in oil prices.

In the last major energy bull market – leading up to the 2008 top for crude oil – production growth was the most important metric to watch. Companies that grew production the fastest often generated the strongest stock market returns even if growing production required financing via secondary share issuance or debt. And production growth – particularly oil production growth – remained a powerful metric in the 2009 to 2014 era of steady, high oil prices.

However, that relationship has now broken down for good and investors must change tactics accordingly, throwing out the growth-driven playbook that worked so well in the last bull market for energy. Simply put, investors are now looking for a balance between energy producers’ capital spending, free cash flow and production growth.

In this issue, we develop one key metric for analyzing exploration and production (E&P) companies that’s been strongly correlated to stock market returns over the past two years. While investors should never rely exclusively on any single quantitative metric in selecting stocks, we use this research as a starting point to identify some of the best-positioned E&P stocks to buy now as well as a few names to avoid.

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  • Live Chat with

    Elliott and Roger on Jul. 26, 2018

  • 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

    • Elliott H. Gue

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

    • Roger S. Conrad

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