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Investing Topics: Investment Strategy

Focus List (Mostly) Outperforms and Portfolio Updates

The improved outlook for oil prices and the rotation into energy stocks has lifted most boats in the sector, though we’re pleased that nine of the 13 names on our Focus List have outperformed the S&P 500 Energy Index over an equivalent holding period. We review our Focus List and discuss earnings and other pertinent developments affecting our Portfolio holdings.

Positioning the Portfolios for 2018

Many investors’ tax rates will come down in 2018, making the next few trading days your best opportunity for taking tax losses on any underwater positions that may take time to recover. With investors facing higher tax liabilities in 2017 than next year, the benefit of writing off a loser is that much greater.

Of course, we prefer to avoid taking any losses and run the Energy & Income Advisor Portfolios with an eye toward long-run returns. However, given the sector’s recent down-cycle and the topsy-turvy performance of many energy sub-industries over the past few years, we have a few positions that haven’t worked out because of timing issues or a faulty investment thesis. These sales will help to offset the handful of gains that we took over the course of the year.

Paradigm Shift in MLP Land

Big changes are afoot in the midstream segment. Many master limited partnerships appear to have taken Enterprise Products Partners LP’s lead and shifted their focus to building distribution coverage and reducing equity. We explore which names will be able to make this transition with relative ease and which names face more of a slog to put themselves on a path to sustainability.

Planning for a Pullback

An environment where oil prices remain lower for longer favors US independent exploration and production companies that own high-quality assets in the lowest-cost shale plays.

The best upstream operators continue to reduce their per barrel production costs through efficiency gains and enhanced drilling and completion techniques that boost per-well output. Some of the strongest names can generate a decent return on capital with oil prices in the mid-$30s per barrel.

Despite significant volatility, crude-oil prices have trended lower since the beginning of June. Our near-term outlook calls for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) to tumble into the $30s per barrel over the next one to three months, a period of seasonally weak demand.

This weakness could create another opportunity to buy our favorite exploration and production names.

 

The Upstream Cash Flow Crunch

The severe downdraft in the prices of crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids has pressured producers’ cash flow and outpaced reductions to service costs and capital expenditures. Accordingly, the cash flow shortfalls that predominated in the salad years have continued in the lean years, setting the stage for further spending cuts in 2016.

MLP Strategy Update

The recent relief rally hasn’t changed our outlook for the MLP space and investment strategy. Despite the severity of the selloff and rapidity of the recovery, even our favorite publicly traded partnerships could find themselves engulfed in another maelstrom of indiscriminate selling. Not only will squeezing out the excesses of the past take time, but a number of headline risks will continue to haunt the space over at least the next 12 months.

 

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  • Live Chat with

    Elliott and Roger on Feb. 27, 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

    • 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