4 Must-Buy Energy Stocks as Oil Surges Over $70 a Barrel

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For the first time in almost four years, the price of oil has gone over the $70 mark, and there is a good chance it will stay there and could even go higher. With the president perhaps ready to reimpose sanctions on Iran, demand going higher and all the inventory glut that had plagued the industry for the most part gone, the prospects look good for those long the black gold.

Surprisingly, after being absolutely trounced for some time, many of the top companies in the industry have not caught up to the deck price of oil. We screened the Merrill Lynch energy stocks universe looking for good deals in oil and oilfield services stocks, and we found four that still offer tremendous value. All are rated Buy at Merrill Lynch.

Anadarko Petroleum

This top company is still down a stunning 30% from highs printed in 2014, the last time oil traded at $70. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC) operates through three segments. The Oil and Gas Exploration and Production segment explores for and produces natural gas, oil, condensate, and natural gas liquids (NGLs). The other segments are Midstream and Marketing.

The company reported impressive first-quarter results, and Merrill Lynch said this when covering the earnings:

Adjusted earnings per share of $0.52 beat consensus of $0.40 on lower DD&A and strong oil production that topped guidance led by the US onshore. Half of Permian production is exposed to basis in 2018, but Enterprise and Cactus 2 should leave the company fully covered by 2019. With oil prices at current levels we believe Anadarko can reload share buybacks after the program concludes by mid year.

Shareholders receive a 1.52% dividend. Merrill Lynch recently raised its price target to $95 from $87. The Wall Street consensus price objective is $74.23, and shares closed trading Monday at $66.

Enterprise Products Partners

This is one of the top players in the beat-up energy master limited partnership arena. Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (NYSE: EPD) provides a wide variety of midstream energy services, including gathering, processing, transportation and storage of natural gas, NGLs fractionation, import and export terminaling, and offshore production platform services.

One reason why many analysts may like the stock might be its distribution coverage ratio. That ratio is well above one-times, making it relatively less risky in its sector. The company’s distributions have grown for several quarters, and last year Enterprise Products announced that the board of directors of its general partner declared an increase in the quarterly cash distribution paid to partners to $0.4225 per common unit, or $1.70 on an annualized basis.

Investors receive a 6.44% distribution. The Merrill Lynch price target is $29 and the consensus target is $31.48. Shares closed Monday at $26.54.

Exxon Mobil

This remains a top Wall Street energy pick and is on the US 1 list at Merrill Lynch. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is the world’s largest international integrated oil and gas company. It explores for and produces crude oil and natural gas in the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

The company also manufactures and markets commodity petrochemicals, including olefins, aromatics, polyethylene and polypropylene plastics, and specialty products, and it transports and sells crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products.

Recently, Exxon announced estimated first-quarter 2018 earnings of $4.7 billion, or $1.09 per share assuming dilution, compared with $4.0 billion a year earlier. Cash flow from operations and asset sales was $10 billion, including proceeds associated with asset sales of $1.4 billion.

During the quarter, the corporation distributed $3.3 billion in dividends to shareholders. Capital and exploration expenditures were $4.9 billion, up 17 percent from the prior year.

In addition, the company recently raised its dividend by a nickel to $0.82 per share, which now translates to a nifty 4.2% dividend. The $100 Merrill Lynch price objective is well above the consensus estimate of $85.98. Shares closed Monday at $77.74.

Schlumberger

This top oil services company is expected to benefit from increased exploration and production spending, and it is also a member of the Merrill Lynch US 1 list. Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE: SLB) is the world’s largest provider of services and equipment used in drilling, evaluation, completion, production and maintenance of oil and natural gas wells. Revenues in 2017 totaled $30.4 billion, and EBITDA was $6.9 billion.

The company operates in the oilfield service markets through three groups: Reservoir Characterization, Drilling and Production. Reservoir Characterization Group consists of the principal technologies involved in finding and defining hydrocarbon resources. These include WesternGeco, Wireline, Testing Services and Schlumberger Information Solutions.

Shareholders receive a 2.89% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price objective is $75. The consensus target is $79.72, and shares ended Monday at $69.21.

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These four top stocks all have solid upside potential to the Merrill Lynch price targets and have yet to catch up with the commiserate price move in oil. With the Middle East geopolitical factors hanging over the sector, prices could possibly move to the mid $70s fast.