A terrible 2015 for oil prices has left nearly every stock in the industry hurting. But there are two you should consider for 2016.
Anemic appetite for oil from European countries and China and overactive oil production from non-OPEC countries has proved to be a double whammy and hammered crude oil prices to an unexpected depth.
WTI crude oil prices are at the $40 level, already down over 30% this year. While the long term picture of crude oil is intact, the short term still has some pain yet to come. As the debate among economies to cut production continues, economists and analysts expect the oil price to stay low even across 2016.
Many energy stocks now are among a group of extremely weak and vulnerable investments that will continue plummeting in 2016.CHK data by YCharts
And so, oil stocks are naturally facing the brunt. The S&P 500 energy sector has shed over 18% in 2015, while companies of all scales have struggled. Notably, oil giant Chevron Corp. has fallen 20.8% so far this year the relatively small Chesapeake Energy has shed a depressing 75%.
But this scenario can actually prove to be a great opportunity to take advantage of lower prices to enter robust and promising stocks. We have narrowed down two fundamentally strong players that possess the strength to come out strongly in this short-term pandemonium.XOM data by YCharts
One of the biggest explorers and producers of oil and natural gas in the world, Exxon Mobil boasts several reasons to earn this spot, despite the fact that it's directly tied to oil-price movement.
In the second quarter, despite earnings coming in below Street expectations, revenues exceeded them, helped by Exxon's subsidiary Esso, which uses oil to produce gasoline, aviation fuel, and other products. Aided by expanding European refining margins, Esso clocked in earnings that helped Exxon generate $1.5 billion in profit in the second quarter, up from $795 million in the year ago period.
To cater to a changing market, Exxon has undertaken some strategic adaptive measures. Firstly, it has tweaked its product mix by increasing the production of diesel and has improved its facilities to counter maintenance costs.
Secondly, Exxon is working to insulate itself from oil price shocks and resulting revenue losses by diversifying into renewable energy, gas, and refining. Finally, the company's chemicals business which accounts for 16% of total revenues has been a major support in the past and should provide support in the short term.
If all else fails, shareholders can at least rely on Exxon's dividend aristocrat status and pleasing dividend yield of 3.6%. Unlike a sad coterie of equities that are doomed in 2016, this stock should rebound in coming months.
While low crude oil prices are a headwind for Exxon and its peers, for a refining and marketing company it is a strong tailwind. Valero's third quarter earnings numbers reflected this trend as profits climbed 30%, a five-point surprise versus analysts' expectations. Its net income came in at $1.4 billion, or $2.79 per share, up more than 40% from a year ago and beyond consensus estimates of $2.66.
Valero is also betting big on the investments it has made to upgrade its processing capabilities of crude oil. Margins are expected to look even better, and contributions from unit expansions should become apparent as early as the fourth quarter.
At a time when oil companies such as Marathon Oil are suspending or cutting dividend payments to shareholders, Valero is sharing profits with shareholders and boosted quarterly dividend payments by 25%, the second increase this year.
Moreover, the company bought back 35.5 million shares for $2.2 billion in 2015.
Many might think that Valero is only leveraging lower crude oil prices. However, with its strategic investments expected to pan out over the next few months, there is plenty to admire about Valero beyond its survival amid depressed prices. At a growing dividend yield of 2.8% it's no surprise that only one analyst out of 19 suggest selling the stock.
The OPEC cartel's meeting in Vienna, Austria is not expected to exert enough of an impact to revive the industry. OPEC's Economic Commission Board said that even if current production remains at its constant level of 31.5 million barrels a day, 2016 will witness an oversupply of 700,000 barrels a day.
While this is still lower than the 1.8 million a barrel a day oversupply OPEC expects for 2015, it will be a while before demand exceeds supply and crude oil scales the three-digit peaks it once saw.
Hold on tight because the ride will get rougher before its gets smoother. But these two energy stocks are good values now, for the day when oil prices finally bounce back.
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