With stocks at all-time highs and with oil’s price bottoming out six months ago, it has been some time since we have seen analysts issue a massive number of analyst upgrades and issue much higher price targets in the oil patch. Many analysts had been upgrading their expectations in prior months or even before the prices bottomed out earlier in 2016. Now that the dust has settled and now that oil seems more stable, analysts are again tweaking their ratings and estimates around a higher oil base.
24/7 Wall St. tracks dozens of analyst upgrades and downgrades each weekday, and this ends up being hundreds of calls each week. The week ending August 19 had many key Buy or Outperform ratings for oil and gas investors, with some in big names.
It is important to realize that these analyst calls are based on a stabilizing oil price or a higher oil price. In short, these calls will look very far off the mark if oil prices plummet again.
Last Tuesday Merrill Lynch upgraded four oil stocks. Devon Energy Corp. (NYSE: DVN) was added to Merrill Lynch’s US1 list of top ideas. The firm is expecting Devon’s guidance to move higher to where it will beat estimates and guide higher in the second half of 2016. Devon closed down about 1% on Friday at $44.33, and the consensus analyst price target is $45.30. Its 52-week trading range is $18.07 to $48.68.
Also on Tuesday, Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO) was raised from Neutral to Buy with a $21 price objective (versus a $14.90 prior close) at Merrill Lynch. Marathon Oil has a consensus price target of $18.04 and a 52-week range of $6.52 to $20.44.
One more Tuesday move: Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLR) was started as Outperform at Wells Fargo. Continental, one of the largest producers in the Bakken, posted a new 52-week high on Friday after selling assets in Montana and North Dakota valued at $222 million. The stock closed at $48.72 on Friday, in a 52-week range of $13.94 to $48.93, and the 12-month price target is $51.18.
Sasol Ltd. (NYSE: SSL) was raised to Buy at Merrill Lynch on Tuesday, with the firm noting that the worst has been priced in and it believes that Sasol is levered to the oil price. Its price objective was actually lowered here overseas, but that was due to currency and higher potential capital spending. Sasol’s American depositary shares trade in New York and closed Friday at $28.26. The consensus price target is $32.09, and the 52-week range is $21.07 to $34.73.
Merrill Lynch has raised its rating on Noble Corp. (NYSE: NE) from Underweight to Neutral with a price target of $7.50. Noble closed at $6.21 on Friday, in a 52-week range of $6.18 to $14.64. The low was posted Friday, and the consensus price target is $7.75.
Patterson-UTI Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: PTEN) also got a nod from Merrill Lynch. The analysts raised their rating from Underweight to Neutral and raised the price target from $21 to $22. Shares closed Friday at $21.22, in a 52-week range of $10.94 to $22.12, and the 12-month price target is $21.34.