BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Goldman Sachs (GS - Get Report), which advised investors to sell oil in April and reversed its stance before prices rebounded a month later, is now the most bullish on four stocks in the industry.
The global investment bank is highest on Noble Energy (NBL - Get Report), whose shares may rise 50% in the next six months, according to its forecast. Goldman Sachs says Brent crude oil should rise to about $130 a barrel within a year from $114 today, driven by demand in emerging economies.
A slowdown in economic growth has had analysts scrambling to alter their forecasts. Even the Federal Reserve has said the U.S. economy is growing more slowly than it had expected earlier in the year. The International Energy Agency last week reduced its oil demand estimate by 0.2 million barrels a day for 2011 and 0.4 million barrels a day for 2012. However, the agency still forecasts oil demand to be marginally higher than the current supply next year.
Analysts are bullish on select stocks as industry consolidation is ongoing, and because high growth rates in emerging markets provide a floor for share prices and oil stocks can serve as an inflation hedge. Some companies are paying outsized dividends, which are attractive as Treasury yields have fallen to less than 2%.For example, Exxon Mobil (XOM - Get Report) carries a hefty 2.6% projected dividend yield, in addition to an estimated 35% stock-appreciation forecast over the next six months. Oil and gas exploration and production companies' shares are down an average of 13% this year, according to Morningstar. That's three times as much as that of the benchmark S&P 500 Index. So anyone moving into oil stocks now must reconcile the fact that the industry has been a laggard. Here are Goldman Sachs' current "conviction list" energy-stock picks: