Cowen Says Strong Crude Pricing Could Set Up Refiner Buying Opportunity

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Despite constant chatter from bears on Wall Street that the price of oil was soon to plummet, it not only has failed to drop, but the price has remained consistently over $100 per barrel. It is up more now as militants cause trouble in the Middle East. What may be tough for vacationers this summer could prove an opportunity for investors. In a new research report, the refining analysts at Cowen say that while second-quarter earnings estimates are coming down, and the third-quarter could be challenging as well, they believe asset quality will be rewarded and see the crude pricing upside as setting up a buying opportunity in the names that have rated Outperform.

Here are the five refining stocks rated Outperform at Cowen.

Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MPC) is a top refining name investors can buy now in hopes of substantial gains down the road. Marathon has a diversified business that operates through Refining & Marketing, Speedway, and Pipeline Transportation segments. The company owns and operates seven refineries in the Gulf Coast and Midwest that refine crude oil and other feedstocks, and it distributes refined products through barges, terminals and trucks, as well as purchases ethanol and refined products for resale. Shareholders are paid a 1.9% dividend. The Cowen price target for the stock is $120. The Thomson/First Call consensus target is $106.10. Marathon closed Wednesday at $85.69 a share.

PBF Energy Inc. (NYSE: PBF) engages in the refining and supply of petroleum products. It provides gasoline, ultra-low-sulfur diesel, heating oil, jet fuel, lubricants, petrochemicals and asphalt, as well as unbranded transportation fuels, heating oil, petrochemical feedstocks and other petroleum products. The company has stated in the past that the rising RIN costs will be passed along to the consumer, which makes for bad publicity but will increase earnings. Shareholders are paid a very solid 3.8% dividend. Cowen has a $35 price target, and the consensus target is at $29.50. PBF closed Wednesday at $31.39.

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Tesoro Corp. (NYSE: TSO) is another one of the Cowen top picks for this year in refining. Many Wall Street analysts cite the possibility for meaningful EBITDA growth, driven by its newly acquired Carson refinery and eventually through its Port of Vancouver crude logistics project. Investors are paid a 1.7% dividend. The Cowen price objective is $65, while the consensus target is $66.65. Tesoro closed Wednesday at $56.92.

Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) has 56% of companywide refining capacity located in the U.S. Gulf Coast, which makes Valero well positioned to benefit from the ongoing infrastructure debottlenecking of inland crude oil supply in 2014 and beyond. Some Wall Street estimates have the company generating an astounding free cash flow compounded annual growth rate of 24% from now to 2016. Investors are paid a 1.8% dividend. The Cowen price target is $61 and the consensus is at $62.48. Valero closed Wednesday at $53.19.

Western Refining Inc. (NYSE: WNR) has received big earnings revision boosts from Wall Street over the past few months with estimates for 2014 and 2015 increased by 8%. The refining segment operates refineries in El Paso and Gallup, N.M. The Wholesale segment includes a fleet of crude oil and finished product truck transports, and wholesale petroleum products operations in nine U.S. states. Investors are paid a respectable 2.6% dividend. The Cowen price target is $46 and the consensus is at $50. The stock closed Thursday at $39.26.

Despite a ton of negative sentiment, the refiners and the sector as a whole look poised to do well the rest of the year. With oil prices over the $100 mark and the busy summer travel season already started, demand should only begin to increase from here. If the refinery investors get the spread blow-out many are looking for in the fourth quarter, things could really get exciting for these top names to buy.

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