Even though we saw an almost 15% decline in the spot price of oil this summer, autumn may be destined to be a far different story. After the first tranche of the sanctions against Iran began on August 6, another big round will be imposed on November 4, and that round will include many of the items that deal with the country’s oil production and sales. While some countries may continue to try to buy oil from Iran, there is still expected to be a major drop in supply.
Iranian oil sales to customers already has plummeted as the buyers weigh the consequences of buying oil from the country. In fact, Iran’s oil exports have fallen by more than 500,000 barrels per day.
With the potential for a big spike in the fall, one that could shoot the price back in the $75 range or higher, it makes sense to add some of the top companies now. We screened the Merrill Lynch energy research universe for stocks rated Buy that paid at least a 4%. We found four that look very solid now.
Enterprise Products Partners
This is a leading North American provider of midstream energy services to producers and consumers. Enterprise Products Partners L.P. (NYSE: EPD) is the largest publicly traded master limited partnership (MLP), and its midstream energy services include gathering, processing, transportation and storage of natural gas, natural gas liquids fractionation, import and export terminaling, and offshore production platform services.
One reason why many analysts may like the stock might be its distribution coverage ratio. That ratio is well above one-times, making it relatively less risky among its peers. The company’s distributions have grown for several quarters, and last year Enterprise Products announced that the board of directors of its general partner declared an increase in the quarterly cash distribution paid to partners to $0.43 per common unit, or $1.72 per unit on an annualized basis.
Enterprise Products Partners investors are paid a very solid 5.86% distribution. The Merrill Lynch price target for the shares is $31, and the Wall Street consensus price target is $33.38. Shares were trading early Thursday at $29.30.
This remains a top energy pick and is on the US 1 list at Merrill Lynch. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is the world’s largest international integrated oil and gas company. It explores for and produces crude oil and natural gas in the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Africa and elsewhere.
The company also manufactures and markets commodity petrochemicals, including olefins, aromatics, polyethylene and polypropylene plastics, and specialty products, and it transports and sells crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products.
Exxon reported quarterly profits that fell short of analysts’ expectations, marking the fourth time in the past five periods the company has disappointed. The miss was largely due to weaker earnings in Exxon’s refining and marketing segment due to heavier-than-anticipated maintenance and operational problems. Exxon’s business producing oil and gas bolstered earnings, with the company saying it is favoring oil output over gas drilling in its U.S. shale fields.
Exxon investors are paid a very solid 4.10% dividend. Merrill Lynch has a price objective of $110, while the consensus target is $88.88. The shares traded on Thursday at $79.65 apiece.