For Immediate Release
Chicago, IL – April 21, 2021 – Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Western Midstream Partners, LP (
WES Quick Quote WES - Free Report) , DCP Midstream, LP ( DCP Quick Quote DCP - Free Report) , Diamondback Energy, Inc. ( FANG Quick Quote FANG - Free Report) and EOG Resources, Inc. ( EOG Quick Quote EOG - Free Report) . Here are highlights from Tuesday’s Analyst Blog: Energy Q1 Earnings Ahead: Can Higher Prices Quell Winter Woes?
Following vaccine progress and the ongoing macroeconomic recovery, commodity prices have rebounded sharply, returning to their pre-pandemic levels. Agreed, demand is yet to come back fully but the sector seems to have found its footing following a brutal 2020.
While the returns improved in the third and fourth quarters on gradually tightening fundamentals, the January-March period should further reinforce the sector’s stability. Amid proof of rising fuel consumption, investors will also be looking for more constructive signs of recovery through 2021.
Over the next month or so, as we make our way through the earnings deluge, here are some important things to look for:
Revenue & Earnings Comparison Relative to Q1 ’20
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in January, February and March of 2020, the average monthly
WTI crude price was $57.52, $50.54 and $29.21 per barrel, respectively. In 2021, average prices were $52 in January, $59.04 in February and $62.33 in March, i.e., mostly stronger year over year.
The news is even better on the natural gas front. In Q1 of 2020, U.S. Henry Hub average
natural gas prices were $2.02 per MMBtu in January and fell to $1.91 in February before tumbling further to $1.79 in March. Coming to 2021, the fuel was trading at $2.71, $5.35 and $2.62 per MMBtu, in January, February and March, respectively. In other words, natural gas traded higher in all the three months.
Despite taking into account the year-over-year improvement in commodity prices, the picture looks a little downbeat for the Q1 earnings season. Per the latest
Earnings Preview, Energy is likely to have experienced a decline in earnings from a year earlier.
Per our expectations, the sector’s earnings are likely to have decreased 16.1% from first-quarter 2020 on 8.6% lower revenues. The reason was mid-February’s Texas freeze which was a week-long spell of severe cold blast that forced many companies to temporarily suspend production and refinery plants, causing lost revenues and rising costs.
How Will the Sub-Industries Perform?
From upstream (exploration and production) to midstream (pipelines) to downstream (refining and distribution), let’s see how the different subsets of energy might have performed in the March quarter.
While the price boost will buoy the results of E&P companies for obvious reasons, some of that positive effect might have been offset by the weather downtime. On the other hand, the refiners’ numbers will be dragged down by surging expenses to comply with cleaner gasoline production rules (or RIN costs), continued macro hurdles, plus volume and cost impacts from the winter storms.
Meanwhile, the E&P capital discipline is likely to continue through 2021, which automatically translates into lesser work for the oilfield service firms — companies that make it possible for upstream players to drill for oil and gas. Agreed, rig count has recovered considerably, costs have been slashed and completion activity is looking up too but overcapacity and pricing pressure would restrict the positive impact.
Finally, the pipeline companies are also likely to have faced the repercussions from upstream shut-ins due to the severe winter weather in February. Some midstream operators like
Western Midstream Partners and DCP Midstream have clearly outlined the adverse impacts to earnings as a result of lower volumes.
At the same time, the deep freeze sent natural gas prices skyrocketing in February, which benefited the marketers of the commodity. Overall, the macro environment for energy infrastructure providers remained favorable during the first quarter with production stabilizing and energy demand rebounding.
What’s the Outlook for Dividends/Distributions?
As exploration activity takes off amid WTI crude’s new-found stability of $60 per barrel, companies might look to allocate rising cash flows to dividends. While the likes of
Diamondback Energy and EOG Resources — both carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) — have already raised their payout this year, it should come as no surprise if more oil producers decide to dish out dividend hikes to pacify the long-suffering shareholders.
You can see
. the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here
The major midstream players — being largely insulated to fluctuations in commodity prices — managed to maintain their distribution levels through the crisis-stricken 2020. Further, their relatively steady coverage and improving commodity price visibility should represent a more predictable midstream payout scenario in the first quarter.
Shale Producers in the Spotlight
Most indicators show that energy could be on a steady recovery path. Of late, crude has found strong support at around $60-a-barrel, with the U.S. benchmark hitting a nearly two-year high above $66 in March. With this firmed-up price and some previously shut-in production coming back online, shale operators could surprise on the upside.
As output from the unconventional plays look set for an uptick, all eyes will be on the companies working in the Permian Basin — America’s hottest and lowest-cost shale region, and by far the primary driver of crude production in the United States. The improvement in oil prices has prompted these firms to shore up drilling activity, leading to improved cash flows and increased chances of an earnings beat.
Keep an Eye on Positive Financial Guidance for the Year Ahead
Since the coronavirus-induced depths of the April-June period, the sector has been staging a recovery over the past two quarters on rebalancing supply/demand fundamentals. We expect the positive momentum to have carried into the first quarter based on the improving outlook for the global economy and oil demand.
The quarterly announcements will also present an opportunity for the companies to highlight their plans of using the substantial free cash flows — whether to strengthen the balance sheets or pay cash back to shareholders. With the most encouraging macro backdrop in months and optimism around the vaccines, investors will be looking ahead to company-level improvements in the outlook.
An effective way to gauge a firm’s strength and resilience is to look out for improved guidance. Of particular interest will be the cost-reduction initiatives, updates on free cash flow, and upward revision in estimated production.
+1,500% Growth: One of 2021’s Most Exciting Investment Opportunities
In addition to the stocks you read about above, would you like to see Zacks’ top picks to capitalize on the Internet of Things (IoT)? It is one of the fastest-growing technologies in history, with an estimated 77 billion devices to be connected by 2025. That works out to 127 new devices per second.
Zacks has released a special report to help you capitalize on the Internet of Things’s exponential growth. It reveals 4 under-the-radar stocks that could be some of the most profitable holdings in your portfolio in 2021 and beyond.
Click here to download this report FREE >>
Zacks Investment Research
800-767-3771 ext. 9339
Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss
. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit https://www.zacks.com/performance for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.