NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Energy investors got a bit of a relief Thursday as the price of U.S. crude edged up to $48.79 per barrel, following the previous session low of $46.83 -- a price not seen since 2009. And while Brent price slipped slightly Thursday by 26 cents to $51 per barrel, Brent still traded higher than Wednesday's session of $49.66 -- a five-and-a-half year low.
The good news is, weak oil prices don't affect all energy companies the same way -- particularly refiners like CVR Energy (CVI) - Get CVR Energy, Inc. Report , Tesoro (TSO) and Western Refining (WNR) . Take a look at the chart.
In the past six months all three companies outperformed the Energy Select Sector ETF (XLE) - Get Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund Report and Vanguard Energy Index Fund ETF (VDE) - Get Vanguard Energy ETF Report , which are home to some of the prominent energy companies like Exxon Mobil (XOM) - Get Exxon Mobil Corporation ReportChevron (CVX) - Get Chevron Corporation Report and Schlumberger (SLB) - Get Schlumberger NV Report .
Part of the reason is because refining companies like Tesoro are not as sensitive to the direction of oil prices as, say, the onshore/offshore drillers or those that focus on exploration and production. This prompted Neil Mehta, analyst at Goldman Sachs to add Tesoro to its conviction list, while resuming refining companies at Attractive.
And despite the market's concern about weak oil, Mehta says refiners can see their stock prices increase by 25% in the next six months. This is because refiners like Tesoro, Western and CVR Energy care more about the spread of crude price, not the price itself. This means their business can still perform and grow cash flow, despite the decline in oil.
In the case of CVR Energy, activist investor Carl Icahn has placed huge bets on the company's future.
According to market research firm GuruFocus, CVR Energy is Icahn's third-largest stock position. With holdings of around 72 million shares, CVR Energy makes up 9.5% of Icahn's portfolio, trailing his positions in his own company Icahn Enterprises (IEP) - Get Icahn Enterprises L.P. Report and Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report which account for 15.8% of his portfolio.
All told, Icahn holds 82% of CVR Energy's outstanding shares, says GuruFocus. And with the company paying a dividend yield of 7.79%, CVR Energy is paying investors for their patience, making it one of the best gambles on the energy space.
There are also compelling reasons to own Western Refining. Not the least of which is the shares are cheap, trading at a trailing price-to-earnings ratio 9. For comparison, both the Energy Select Sector ETF and Vanguard Energy Index Fund ETF carry P/E of 13. But aside from Western paying a decent yield of 3.07%, analysts are bullish on the company's future.
The stock has a high 12-month price target of $60, which suggest potential gains of 61%. And even Western Refining's median 12-month target of $52 suggests gains of 40%. The reason for the optimism include the company's 42% jump in earnings for this fiscal year and Western is projected to grow earnings at a rate of 12% in the next five years.
TheStreet Ratings team rates WESTERN REFINING INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:
"We rate WESTERN REFINING INC (WNR) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, increase in net income, attractive valuation levels and good cash flow from operations. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself."
You can view the full analysis from the report here: WNR Ratings Report
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.