Friday's was a busy day, with a disappointing November labor report hitting the wires and an agreement coming from OPEC members regarding oil. The group has decided on a larger-than-expected production cut, which sparked a rally in crude oil prices in early Friday trading.
The initial rally makes sense, given that supply is seemingly coming out of the market and thus, demand is there to elevate prices. Friday crude oil prices were holding onto steady gains of just under 4% for the session. Of course, that's given a big lift to energy stocks, even as the the Vaneck Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH) - Get Report and the Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) - Get Report are both off their highs.
For individual investors, it begs the question, is now the time to get long? The commodity has been in an extended downtrend for roughly 10 weeks, causing selling pressure in many energy stocks. That's left investors both skittish and searching for opportunity.
When it comes to oil stocks, BP plc (BP) - Get Report is hard not to like. Let's start with one of its most attractive qualities, the dividend. BP pays out a solid 6.2% dividend yield. Not that a 6% payout isn't attractive during calm markets, but it's especially comforting to have in a volatile market such as the one we're currently in. Given that management recently raised its dividend earlier this year, this adds confidence to the safety of BP's dividend payout.
It also helps protect investors in the event of a further decline in oil prices and/or energy stocks.
Another comforting factor? BP's valuation. Shares trade at less than 11 times this year's earnings expectations, which are three quarters of the way in the books. While growth expectations slow considerably for 2019 -- with estimates calling for just 4% sales growth and 2% earnings growth -- remember that we're paying a discount vs. the overall market's valuation rather than a premium. Barring a total collapse in the oil market, this valuation should help buoy shares of BP in the short to intermediate term.
BP plc is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells BP? Learn more now. BP is our top pick in the energy sector. We value its visible, multi-year production growth guidance at a break-even cost that is expected to steadily decline.
Lastly, on the fundamental front, we have some reaffirmation from management regarding cash flow. Management's outlook calls for free-cash flow of $14 billion to $15 billion in 2021 from its upstream business. That's a healthy number and will help support not only the dividend, but much of BP's initiatives in the future. This should give long-term investors confidence in BP.
Regarding the stock, shares were accelerating off the highs Friday, after being rejected by the 21-day moving average. Let's see if that dividend yield is able to support the stock between $39 to $40, as it has for the last two months, or whether investors get a chance to buy along coming downtrend support.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.