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3 Energy Stocks Gushing with Growth

Tracey Ryniec

Are the exploration stocks about to bust out of the doghouse?

2011 was a tough year for many of the energy stocks, especially the smaller explorers. They were beaten down in the summer sell-off with some declining 50% as investors feared that a global recession was soon to start. Any global slowdown would clearly mean lower energy prices.

But when that didn't happen, the exploration companies were suddenly super cheap. They have since rallied off the summer lows but haven't yet regained the old highs. They are still out of favor with investors.

Will Iranian Tensions Be a Catalyst?

Crude surged to close out 2011 just under $100 a barrel. In 2012, the upward momentum has continued with the price rising 9 of the last 12 sessions.

Traders are blaming the saber-rattling out of Iran. Iran is threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a major shipping lane for crude, if the EU follows through with a proposed oil embargo. Twenty eight EU Foreign Ministers are meeting on Jan 30 to debate an embargo.

The EU uses about 600,000 barrels of Iranian oil a day which could be replaced by the Saudis if they raise production (which they have already offered to do.) But the embargo would still make tight supplies even tighter.

Analysts are already guessing we'd have $125 a barrel oil if the oil embargo actually happens. It could go higher still if the Strait of Hormuz was shut and/or an actual military conflict occurs in the Persian Gulf.

The Magic Combination

What if you could buy a stock with a cheap valuation but which was also growing its earnings by the double or triple digits? Too good to be true? Not with some of the exploration companies.

Because the stocks are out of favor, valuations are very attractive. That means P/Es below 15, which is what I usually deem a 'value' stock.

Earnings growth was explosive in 2011 and Zacks Consensus Estimates are also bullish about 2012.

With the stocks so out of favor but the market now preparing for the possible perfect storm of growing demand but tight supply due to a Middle East oil shock, now may be a perfect time to add energy positions to your portfolio.

3 Energy Companies With Explosive Earnings Growth

Forget the small caps. The mid-cap explorers have great valuations and amazing growth projections.

1. Plains Exploration & Production Company (NYSE:PXP - News)

Headquartered in Houston, Plains explores for oil and gas in California, the Gulf Coast region, including the Haynesville and Eagle Ford Shale, the Gulf of Mexico and the Rocky Mountains.

This Zacks #2 Rank (buy) has a $5.5 billion market cap.

2010 Earnings: $1.06
2011 Expected Earnings: $1.79 (growth of 69%)
2012 Expected Earnings: $3.30 (growth of 84%)

Forward P/E: 11.8

2. Rosetta Resources Inc. (NasdaqGS:ROSE - News)

You might not have heard of Rosetta but it isn't a small company as it has a market cap of $2.4 billion. Like Plains, is also based in Houston but has exploration operations mainly in South Texas, including the Eagle Ford shale and the Southern Alberta Basin in northwest Montana.

It is also a Zacks #2 Rank (buy).

2010 Earnings: 61 cents
2011 Expected Earnings: $1.97 (growth of 223%)
2012 Expected Earnings: $3.54 (growth of 81%)

Forward P/E: 12.7

3. Berry Petroleum Company (NYSE:BRY - News)

Based out of Denver, this exploration company operates in California, the Uinta basin in Utah, East Texas and the Permian Basin and in Colorado.

This Zacks #2 Rank (buy) has a market cap of $2.4 billion.

2010 Earnings: $1.53
2011 Expected Earnings: $2.65 (growth of 73%)
2012 Expected Earnings: $3.92 (growth of 48%)

Forward P/E: 11.2

Tracey Ryniec is the Value Stock Strategist for Zacks.com. She is also the Editor of the Turnaround Trader and Insider Trader services. You can follow her on twitter at traceyryniec.

BERRY PETROLEUM (BRY): Free Stock Analysis Report

PLAINS EXPL&PRD (PXP): Free Stock Analysis Report

ROSETTA RESRCS (ROSE): Free Stock Analysis Report

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