Energy Business

Over 20 Key Oil & Gas Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades

The week of June 17 ended up a down week after the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell almost 200 points. The fears of what may happen in a Brexit scenario are meeting the notion that the Federal Reserve just cannot raise interest rates anywhere near a normalization. Still, oil remained above $48 per barrel and investors keep proving over and over that they want to buy dips in the stock market.

The oil and gas components of the stock market, as well as pretty much anything tied to energy, have bounced handily from their lows. The early dog days of 2016 may become a distant memory for many investors. That being said, many of these stocks have seen their shares rise 50%, 75% or even over 100% from their lows. Investors and traders alike should know that gains of this sort are not normal. Not at all. It also could mean that some of the oil and gas stocks are no bargain at all.

24/7 Wall St. tracked numerous upgrades and downgrades, as well as new coverage initiations, in the June 17 week. There was an abnormal amount of these analyst calls in the oil and gas sector; more than 20 real upgrades and downgrades were seen. Some Wall Street analysts still think some of these energy companies offer incredible long-term upside. But many analysts also missed the chance to get clients out high and to get them in close to the bottom.

24/7 Wall St. would offer readers a harsh warning here. If oil falls back under $40, or if the stock market decides to tank again, these positive calls are going to look silly. Also, many analyst calls were first defending the oil and gas sector even a year ago at far higher stock and oil prices.

OK, so now that you have been warned about some of the most obvious risks in energy stocks for now, here are two dozen oil and gas stocks with recent analyst upgrades, downgrades and initiations seen in the energy sector. Due to timing and other constraints, most of the detail from these calls has been kept very brief.

BP PLC (NYSE: BP) was raised to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup on June 16. If BP’s dividend yield remains above 7%, which BP itself has said it will resist a dividend cut unless no options exist, then BP is considered cheap. BP closed at $31.15 in New York trading on the prior day, but BP was trading up almost 0.5% on Thursday in London trading and Friday’s closing price had BP up at $32.75. BP’s American depositary shares have a consensus analyst price target of almost $35 and a 52-week trading range of $30.07 to $42.20.

Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. (NYSE: DO) was started with a Buy rating at Merrill Lynch on June 13. Diamond Offshore was given a $34 price objective, compared with a $24.32 prior close, and it had a consensus price target of $20.61 at that time, with a 52-week range of $14.18 to $29.21. Merrill Lynch cited a strong balance sheet, and free cash flow acting as a shield against harder times, as well as the sector’s highest backlog coverage and M&A potential to help replenish an aging fleet. Diamond Offshore closed out the week at $24.75.

ENSCO PLC (NYSE: ESV) was given the equivalent of a new “Sell” rating on June 13. Merrill Lynch reinstated ENSCO with an Underperform rating and assigned a $9 price objective, down about 10% under the $10.53 prior closing price. ENSCO shares did not initially react to the call at all, as the British offshore contract drilling services provider saw its U.S.-listed shares rise 1% to $10.64 immediately after the call. But even a 3.6% rally on Friday saw it close out the week at $10.30. Merrill Lynch cited ENSCO’s older fleet, despite adding leverage to build new rigs, as well as its exposure to a weak jackup market and low backlog coverage. The stock has a 52-week range of $7.25 to $23.17.

Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY) was downgraded to Equal Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley on June 13. Occidental’s prior closing price was $75.45, and the shares were down only six cents after the downgrade was seen. Perhaps it is such a strong recovery off of the bottoming out of oil that had been in the shares in 2016 that limited the reaction here. Occidental Petroleum has a consensus price target of $78.04 and a 52-week range of $58.24 to $79.75.

Laredo Petroleum Inc. (NYSE: LPI) had an analyst day that was viewed differently by different firms. Laredo Petroleum was raised to Outperform from Sector Perform at Iberia Capital on June 14, and the firm assigned a $14 price target, versus an $11.04 prior close. On the same day, Merrill Lynch reiterated its Underperform rating and $8 price objective. Laredo Petroleum had an $11.65 prior close and a 52-week range of $3.90 to $14.99 going into that call. A gain of 4.25% on Friday let it close out the week at $11.28.

Cheniere Energy Inc. (NYSEMKT: LNG) was raised to Outperform from Sector Perform at Scotia Capital on June 14. Very little detail was made available on this call. Cheniere ended the week with a 4.3% gain on Friday at $34.51, and it has a 52-week range of $22.80 to $74.48 and a consensus analyst target of $56.70.

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