NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It seems that the entire oil sector has caught the BP (BP) - Get BP p.l.c. Sponsored ADR Report malaise, with companies fighting to reach the lowest share price they possibly can just as quickly as they can.
In a market environment that's been extremely cruel to investors, the energy sector -- and particularly the mega-cap integrated stocks -- have performed particularly badly.
I'm ready to draw the line right here -- it's not as if the world has become independent of fossil fuels just because an offshore BP well has sprung a leak -- and I've chosen four large integrated oil stocks to look at and to buy right now at prices that seem downright bargain basement.
The list of the four stocks I've chosen won't win any awards for being overly creative, but sometimes the obvious choices will just work the best. My "fab four" in integrated energy names are
In a market where there are as many obvious headwinds as we have these days, you must become a more conservative investor to stay ahead and sleep at night. And if conservative is the name of the game, there's no more consistent sector to conservatively invest than with the mega-cap energy names.
These names have taken a brutal beating recently, mostly on the back of the BP Gulf of Mexico disaster that has flattened BP stock but also taken many of its sector siblings with it. Some of the stocks I will mention are at share prices not seen since the market lows of March 2009, when the
reached 6,550 and the
was trading at 667.
Has everyone decided to trade in their large white GMC Denalis for new Chevy Volts? No? In that case, we'll still be relying on fossil fuels and the large integrated companies to deliver them for the foreseeable future.
It may no longer be a case of trying to measure the possibility of BP's bankruptcy and total liability and deciding at what level to buy BP shares. We have a simpler plan: Buy other integrated oil companies with super solid balance sheets and terrific dividends that don't risk disappearing anytime soon. Let's look at my fab four a little more closer:
: It closed the XTO deal and received a negative note from Goldman Sachs because of it and is being hurt by the current decline in oil prices, even though the correlation between oil price and share price has been recently weak, to say the least.
Still, I cannot remember when Exxon shares delivered a 3% dividend, which it is doing right now as it trades under $58. Exxon has a 20-plus year history of increasing the dividend and with more than $8 billion of free cash, it could buy back 25 million to 30 million shares on a whim, which it's shown the desire to do in the past. The analysts universally prefer other oil stocks to Exxon, which makes me love it even more.
: A bit more levered to refining than some of the others, Chevron's ability to succeed over the next several years will be dependent on its ability to grow, and it has been aggressive at fashioning the most growth-intensive plan of the four I've named.
It has the most "beta" of a very low beta group and suits investors seeking just a little more volatility in this sector. It has outperformed in 2009 and 2010, and it's been an analyst favorite, something that makes me think it's still overpriced compared with the rest of the group. Still, with a solid 4.1% dividend, it is a great choice.
favorite, and understandably so. It has the most solid balance sheet in the group, with a plan for steady growth without being overly aggressive.
The value player's natural choice, it has not always been on the top of my list, but can you argue with a solid 4.2% dividend and Warren Buffett's ability to choose great investments? No, you can't.
: The French giant makes my fab four because of a few great moves. It has aggressively increased its exposure to natural gas, both with
here in the U.S. but also through shale gas plays in France and Denmark.
It has also moved more aggressively into western Africa, where the opportunities for E&P are enormous, if a little risky. Of my fab four, there's no doubt that Total represents the most risky investment and its 5% dividend is representative of that risk. Still, compared with sector-leading overseas integrated
, boasting a whopping 6.6% dividend, I think Total is a far better, safer and more conservative play, and that's what we're looking for.
All of my fab four share the same basic reason for buying: solid dividends and a belief that the sector has been singled out, and their share prices unreasonably beaten up. While we can't be sure when the market will turn around, we do want to make sure that we're defensively positioned and buying value stocks until it does. My fab four all succeed in this, perhaps better than most other stocks of any sector, not just energy.
Defensive Stock Picks 7 Dow Dividend Stocks Safer Than T-Notes
At the time of publication, Dicker was long BP, Exxon Mobil and Total.
Dan Dicker has been a floor trader at the New York Mercantile Exchange with more than 20 years' experience. He is a licensed commodities trade adviser. Dan's recognized energy market expertise includes active trading in crude oil, natural gas, unleaded gasoline and heating oil futures contracts; fundamental analysis including supply and demand statistics (DOE, EIA), CFTC trade reportage, volume and open interest; technical analysis including trend analysis, stochastics, Bollinger Bands, Elliot Wave theory, bar and tick charting and Japanese candlesticks; and trading expertise in outright, intermarket and intramarket spreads and cracks.
Dan also designed and supervised the introduction of the new Nymex PJM electricity futures contract, launched in April 2003, which cleared more than 600,000 contracts last year alone. Its launch has been the basis of Nymex's resurgence in the clearing of power market contracts over the last three years.
Dan Dicker has appeared as an energy analyst since 2002 with all the major financial news networks. He has lent his expertise in hundreds of live radio and television broadcasts as an analyst of the oil markets on CNBC, Bloomberg US and UK and CNNfn. Dan is the author of many energy articles published in Nymex and other trade journals.
Dan obtained a bachelor of arts degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1982.