Even though West Texas Intermediate (WTI) has fared better in the recent oil sell-off than Brent crude, the Merrill Lynch team sees an imminent ramp-up in inflow capacity, which may temporarily send WTI prices lower. In a new research note, the analysts point out that while prices may very well continue lower, even perhaps into the $70s, they believe WTI will find support next year from shale oil output growth peaking this year. When looking at production per rig in new wells in the four major basins, the rate of growth has come down substantially in the past six months, a trend the Merrill Lynch team expects to continue.
With even the best oil names getting clobbered, savvy investors may want to add some of the top stocks now for a potential rally in 2015. Merrill Lynch is forecasting $90 per barrel for WTI next year and $100 for Brent. They also have three top companies to buy now that they see as defensive when prices are falling, but excellent long-term buys.
Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC) is one of the biggest independent oil and gas producers in the country, with exploration or production work in all major domestic drilling areas, as well as in South America, Africa, Asia and New Zealand. The company also is consistently ranked high with almost every firm that we cover on Wall Street. Anadarko recently announced discoveries off the western and eastern coasts of Africa, including natural gas discoveries in Mozambique and oil discoveries in Ghana. The company is also among the 14 firms teaming up to lobby for an end to the ban on U.S. energy exports.
Anadarko investors are paid a 1.2% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $133 price target for the stock. The Thomson/First Call consensus is at $120.32. Shares closed Friday at $90.98, so trading to the Merrill Lynch target would be an outstanding 46% gain.
Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES) is a top energy name that is also on the Merrill Lynch U.S. #1 list. The company has been the subject of takeover speculation in the past and some of that chatter has reemerged recently. With a market capitalization of $25.5 billion, the company could fall prey to a larger integrated as a quick bolt-on acquisition to boost growth. Last month the company filed for a spin-off of its midstream assets, which has proven very successful for other exploration and production companies.
Hess investors are paid a 1.3% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a $130 price target, while the consensus target is much lower at $102.71. Hess closed Friday at $82.35. Trading to the target would be a monster 57% gain.
Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY) announced earlier this year it will continue to grow dividends and expects to be buying back more shares well into 2015, a double plus for shareholders. Occidental is one of the largest U.S. oil and gas companies, based on equity market capitalization. The company’s midstream and marketing segment gathers, processes, transports, stores, purchases and markets hydrocarbons and other commodities in support of Occidental’s businesses. The company’s wholly owned subsidiary OxyChem manufactures and markets chlor-alkali products and vinyls.
The company posted disappointing third quarter numbers last week, and investors may have the perfect entry point. Occidental shareholders are paid a 3.2% dividend. The Merrill Lynch target is $130, and the consensus target is $106. The stock closed Friday at $89.52. Trading to the target would be an outstanding 45% gain.
Merrill Lynch has VERY aggressive price targets on these three stocks. However, if they are right, and oil prices stabilize and hold the levels they anticipate next year, these stocks could see significant rallies on not only earnings, but potential takeover possibilities.