While falling spot oil prices have hammered the major energy companies, the tumble in price at the gas pump has been a godsend to consumers — and to some of the major refiners. A new report from Cowen points out that while recent strength in refining margins is in part due to normal seasonal industry downtime, a rise in gasoline use is acting as a tailwind, and forward gasoline margins have expanded an average of 32% over the past month.
The Cowen team is quick to point out that while 1.5 million barrels per day in global refining capacity is expected to be added in 2015, refinery utilization has fallen almost 10% from the peak, and current ongoing maintenance could last through March. The Cowen analysts are focused on six top stocks to buy, all are rated Outperform.
Delek US Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: DK) is a diversified downstream energy company with assets in petroleum refining, logistics and convenience store retailing. The refining segment consists of refineries operated in Tyler, Texas, and El Dorado, Ark., with a combined nameplate production capacity of 140,000 barrels per day.
Delek investors are paid a 1.9% dividend. The Cowen price target on the stock is $43. The Thomson/First Call consensus price target is at $37.59. Delek closed Wednesday at $30.48 a share. Trading to the Cowen target would be almost a 40% gain.
Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MPC) is also 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 regions of the United States that refine crude oil and other feedstocks and distribute refined products through barges, terminals and trucks, as well as purchases ethanol and refined products for resale.
Marathon shareholders are paid a 2.3% dividend. The Cowen price target is $120. The consensus target is much lower at $105.51. Marathon closed Wednesday at $89.29. Trading to the Cowen target is over a 30% gain.
Tesoro Corp. (NYSE: TSO) is another one of the Cowen top picks for this year in refining. The company is an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products. Tesoro, through its subsidiaries, operates six refineries in the western United States with a combined capacity of over 850,000 barrels per day and ownership in a logistics business that includes a 35% interest in Tesoro Logistics and ownership of its general partner. Tesoro’s retail-marketing system includes over 2,200 retail stations under the ARCO, Shell, Exxon, Mobil, USA Gasoline and Tesoro brands.
Tesoro investors are paid a 1.5% dividend. The Cowen price objective is $90, while the consensus target is higher at $92.33. Tesoro closed Wednesday at $81.85.
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 2015 and beyond. Some Wall Street estimates have the company generating an astounding free cash flow compounded annual growth rate of 24% during the period from now to 2016.
Valero investors are paid a 2.2% dividend. The Cowen price target is $70, and the consensus target is $60.62. Valero closed Wednesday at $51.51. Hitting the target is almost a 35% gain.
Western Refining, Inc. (NYSE: WNR) refining segment operates refineries in El Paso, Texas, and Gallup, N.M. The Wholesale segment includes a fleet of crude oil and finished product truck transports, as well as wholesale petroleum products operations in nine U.S. states.
Investors are paid a very respectable 3.4% dividend. The Cowen price target is a huge $60, and the consensus figure is at $49.92. The stock closed Wednesday at $36.37. Hitting the Cowen target would be a monster 65% gain.
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. They have also stated in the past that the rising renewable identification number (RIN) costs will be passed along to the consumer, which may make for bad publicity, but could increase earnings.
PBF shareholders are paid an outstanding 4.4% dividend. Cowen has a $35 price target, and the consensus target is $29.67. The stock closed Wednesday at $28.11.
In an energy sector that has struggled, the refiners have shined, and the Cowen team has been spot-on in their assessment of these top stocks for well over a year. Investors looking to buy may want to scale in capital, and wait for a pullback to complete the purchase.