5 Must-Own Energy Stocks as Oil Heads Toward $80 a Barrel

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia may start rethinking the oil production output levels they recently agreed on as oil ended trading last Friday at $74.15 a barrel. While the assumed agreed on total of 600,000 to 800,000 barrels is expected to help, the bottom line is that the overall worldwide production is dropping and reserves are not being filled up anywhere close to former levels.

The question for many investors now may be whether they are too late to the party, and the answer is probably no. While oil has shot higher fast, the price has swung dramatically over the past six weeks, causing the price gains of many of the top companies to remain limited.

We screened the Merrill Lynch energy universe and found five companies that are leaders in their specific energy areas and look like tremendous buys now. All are rated Buy at Merrill Lynch.

Chevron

This integrated giant is a safer way for investors looking to stay or get long the energy sector, and it has big Permian Basin exposure. Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) is a US-based integrated oil and gas company, with worldwide operations in exploration and production, refining and marketing, transportation and petrochemicals.

The company sports a sizable dividend and has a solid place in the sector when it comes to natural gas and liquefied natural gas. Some on Wall Street estimate that the company will have a compound annual growth rate of over 5% for the next five years.

With Permian production and asset disposals targets reset, the company can raise the dividend 20% and buyback 15% of shares. Many analysts view the strategy update as appropriately conservative for one of the more oil-levered majors. The Chevron strategy through 2020 is focused on discipline, enabled by step change in capital efficiency driven by doubling Permian production.

A progressive dividend remains Chevron’s top financial priority, but analysts expect the company will generate sufficient discretionary cash flow to fund a $26 billion repurchase program through 2020. The company expects an annual capital program of $18 billion to $20 billion will be sufficient to fund cash flow and production growth and to replace reserves.

Chevron shareholders receive 3.54% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target for the shares is $150, and the Wall Street consensus target is $145.68. The shares closed Friday at $126.43.

Energy Transfer Partners

This company merged with Sunoco Logistics Partners last year. Energy Transfer Partners L.P. (NYSE: ETP) engages in the natural gas midstream and intrastate transportation and storage businesses in the United States.

The company’s Intrastate Transportation and Storage segment transports natural gas from various natural gas producing areas, and through ET fuel system and HPL system. It owns and operates 7,500 miles of natural gas transportation pipelines, as well as three natural gas storage facilities in Texas. Its Interstate Transportation and Storage segment provides natural gas transportation and storage services, it owns and operates approximately 12,300 miles of interstate natural gas pipeline, and it has interests in various natural gas pipelines.

The Midstream segment gathers, compresses, treats, blends, processes and markets natural gas. It owns and operates 35,000 miles of in service natural gas, 31 natural gas processing plants, 21 natural gas treating facilities and four natural gas conditioning facilities.

The unitholders receive an 11.87% distribution. Merrill Lynch has a $21 price target, but the consensus target is $23.95. Shares closed Friday at $19.04.