After a disappointing fourth quarter, crude oil prices have been stabilizing since the beginning of 2019 following the decision taken by OPEC and Russia-led oil exporters to cut production levels, and supply-related problems in Iran and Venezuela. Moreover, despite concerns about global economic slowdown, demand for crude oil is likely to remain firm in the near term.
Additionally, any positive development in the ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China will act as a major catalyst to oil prices. Given this upbeat scenario, it would be prudent to invest in oil-related stocks with a favorable Zacks Rank.
Oil Prices Likely to Remain Firm in 2019
On Mar 11, the U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude gained 72 cents or 1.3% to close at $56.79 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The global benchmark Brent crude rose 84 cents or 1.3% to $66.58 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. These are the highest finishes for both oil prices so far in March. Year to date, WTI oil price is up 27.7%, while Brent crude has gained 29.3%.
On Mar 11, Bank of America Merrill Lynch announced that it estimates the average prices of Brent crude and WTI crude to be $70 and $59 per barrel, respectively, in 2019. In January, a Reuters’ poll had predicted average price per barrel of Brent crude and WTI crude at $74.50 and $67.45, respectively, in 2019.
OPEC Cuts, Venezuela Sanctions Squeeze Supplies
The OPEC and Russia-led oil exporters have decided to cut crude oil supplies by 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2019. This massive cut aided in the stabilization of oil prices. In December 2018, oil supplies from OPEC nations plunged by 751,000 bpd to nearly 31.6 million bpd.
On Mar 11, Reuters reported that Saudi Arabia’s energy minister Khalid al-Falih said that the country will keep its oil production below $7 million bpd in April, much lower than Saudi’s previous estimation of 10 million bpd.
On Jan 28, the U.S. government announced sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA). Venezuela, once the fourth-largest oil producer in the world, is suffering owing to lack of modernization of oil plants. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), Venezuela’s crude output is likely to decline from 1.3 million bpd in 2018 to 750,000 bpd in 2019 owing to U.S. sanctions.
Strong Global Demand for Crude Oil
On Mar 11, the IEA projected that global crude oil demand will remain firm at least up to 2024 although the rate of demand growth will decline. By this time, oil demand will rise by 7.1 million bpd.
Despite a surge in sales of electric car and massive oil exploration in the United States, soaring demand for oil for the petrochemical industry, especially for plastic and growing demand for aviation oil will support crude oil prices.
Positive Development on Trade War Front
The 11-month long trade dispute between the United States and China is heading toward a likely resolution. On Feb 24, President Donald Trump tweeted that the United States is planning to delay tariffs on additional Chinese goods given the marked progress made on trade-related negotiations.
CNBC reported that China has committed to import $1.2 trillion of U.S. exports. A solution to the U.S.-China trade spat will be a major driver of the oil industry as China and India are the two largest importers of oil globally.
Our Top Picks
Crude oil prices are likely to remain northbound in the near term. Consequently, investment in oil industry-related stocks should be lucrative. We have narrowed down our search to five such firms with a Zacks Rank of # 2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.
The chart below shows price performance of our five picks year to date.
Torchlight Energy Resources Inc. TRCH engages in the acquisition, exploration, exploitation, and development of oil and natural gas properties in the United States. The company has an expected earnings growth rate of 50% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has improved 3.4% over the last 60 days.
PermRock Royalty Trust PRT operates as a statutory trust. It acquires, develops and operates oil and natural gas properties. The company has an expected earnings growth rate of 25.2% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has improved 37.3% over the last 60 days.
Vermilion Energy Inc. VET acquires, explores, develops, and produces crude petroleum and natural gas. The company has an expected earnings growth rate of 1,224.1% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has improved 6.3% over the last 60 days.
Delek Logistics Partners LP DKL owns and operates logistics and marketing assets for crude oil, and intermediate and refined products in the United States. The company has an expected earnings growth rate of 20.4% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has improved 3.9% over the last 60 days.
NuStar Energy LP NS engages in terminalling, storage, and marketing of petroleum products in Texas. The company has an expected earnings growth rate of 64.2% for the current year. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for the current year has improved 1.9% over the last 60 days.
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