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Investing Topics: Oil prices

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.

 

Talking Tankers

The supply-demand balance for oil tankers will weaken over the next two years, with capacity additions outstripping demand growth related to emerging trade routes, global production trends and increasing oil consumption. Nevertheless, many tanker stocks trade at valuations last seen when the market faced much bigger challenges. Meanwhile, the outlook for refined-product tankers looks better, with a smaller order book and Saudi Arabia’s growing focus on exported value-added products instead of crude oil expected to keep the supply-demand balance relatively tight.

Outlook 2016: Energy Prices

Our calls on crude-oil prices over the past year have been spot on for the most part. Although our macro calls haven’t saved our Portfolios from the carnage, we have avoided many of the worst performers, used hedges to provide some upside protection and set ourselves up to profit from the down-cycle’s final chapters. Here’s what we see for the year ahead.

Oil Prices and Geopolitics

The financial media tends to exaggerate the influence of geopolitical developments on oil prices, especially to explain daily moves in these commodities. But today’s market hold more in common with the 1990s, when the price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil actually declined at the height of the Gulf War.

Getting Ready for a Real Buying Opportunity

Over the past two years, oil and gas producers have accounted for the bulk of the energy sector’s bankruptcies, laid low by excessive leverage, the collapse in commodity prices and inferior assets. Exploration and production companies haven’t emerged from the woods yet—but they’re not all goners. In fact, the buying opportunity that investors have awaited appears to be around the corner.

In a scenario where oil prices remain lower for longer, investors should focus on upstream operators with strong balance sheets, low production costs, a history of solid execution and franchise assets that can deliver output growth in a challenging environment. Names that can expand their output and win market share should outperform, while their cash-strapped peers or those with inferior assets will struggle.

The universe of exploration and production companies that meet our criteria is relatively small; don’t misconstrue this call as open season to buy upstream names indiscriminately. Not every oil and gas producer has the potential to outperform, let alone survive.

In this issue, we highlight a handful of our favorite names to scoop up during the coming buying opportunity. To help with timing, we’ve included dream buy prices for these stocks that reflect trough valuations in previous downturns and our outlook for commodity prices.

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  • Live Chat with

    Elliott and Roger on Apr. 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