3 Energy Stocks Hitting 52-Week Highs: MarkWest, Western Gas, Plains Exploration

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Shares of these three energy companies reached 52-week highs on Wednesday: MarkWest Energy Partners ( MWE), Western Gas Partners ( WES) and Plains Exploration & Production ( PXP).

MarkWest Energy Partners

The natural gas company raised its fourth-quarter dividend 11 cents to 76 cents a share last month.

"MarkWest is well positioned to benefit from many of the long-term trends in natural gas development via its footprint in growing shale plays in the Woodford, Marcellus and east Texas," Wells Fargo analysts wrote in a Feb. 3 report. "We believe MWE's valuation does not fully reflect (1) its secure distribution, (2) solid liquidity position, and (3) long-term distribution growth potential. About 90% of MWE's distribution is tax-deferred."

Shares of MarkWest hit a 52-week high of $59.14 on Wednesday. The stock's 52-week low of $39 was set on Aug. 8.

MarkWest has an estimated forward price-to-earnings ratio for next year of 21.04X; the average for pipeline companies is 57.34X. For comparison, Kinder Morgan Energy ( KMP) has a forward P/E of 33.37X and Oneok's ( OKE) is 19.83X.

All nine of the analysts who cover the company rated it a buy.

TheStreet Ratings gives MarkWest an A+ grade with a buy rating and has a $76.24 price target on the shares. The stock has risen 7.28% year to date.

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Western Gas Partners

The midstream energy company is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results on Feb. 28. Analysts, on average, anticipate earnings of 43 cents a share on $175.28 million in revenue.

"We expect WES to continue to provide investors top quartile distribution growth, given the partnership's extensive and growing opportunities both within the current asset portfolio and midstream assets still at its parent and general partner APC," Citi analysts wrote in a Dec. 18 report.

Shares of Western Gas reached a 52-week high Wednesday of $42.91. The stock's 52-week low of $30.75 was set on Aug. 5.

Western Gas has a forward P/E of 20.96X; the average for exploration and production companies is 18.44X. For comparison, both SandRidge ( SD) and Sunoco ( SUN) have higher forward P/Es of 76.72X and 33.39X respectively.

Of the 13 analysts who cover Western Gas, 11 rated it a buy and two gave it a hold rating.

TheStreet Ratings gives Western Gas an A+ grade and with a buy rating and has a $52.15 price target on the shares. The stock has ticked up 1.91% year to date.


Plains Exploration & Production

The independent oil and gas company was raised to a positive rating from a neutral rating by Susquehanna analysts on Wednesday.

"PXP added hedges and we now see 70% of the Company's 2012 crude volumes hedged at $100/bbl Brent and over 90% of 2013 volumes hedged at $90/bbl Brent," KeyBanc Capital Markets analysts wrote in a report Tuesday.

Shares of Plains reached a 52-week high Wednesday of $43.88. The stock's 52-week low of $20.25 on Oct. 4.

Plains has a forward P/E of 13.41X; the average for energy and production companies is 19.92X. For comparison, Denbury Resources ( DNR) and EQT ( EQT) have higher forward P/Es of 13.6X and 15.71X respectively.

Of the 21 analysts who cover Plains, 16 rated it a buy. Four analysts rate the stock as a hold and one considered it a sell.

TheStreet Ratings gives Plains a C grade and hold rating.

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-- Written by Alexandra Zendrian in New York.

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