Jefferies to Investors: Stick With Value Natural Gas Stocks

Reasons to be optimistic on continued rising natural gas pricing may be fading. Last year, hot summer temperatures boosted power demand and held up gas prices. This year, temperatures could be much milder and that means lower prices. In a new research report, the USA energy team at Jefferies thinks that although $4 pricing may not last, there is still a group of stocks within the sector to buy.

Their value names have overtaken the production names as the top stocks to own. Many are Bakken shale exposed, whom they attribute outperformance to anecdotal reports of enhanced Bakken well performance from the use of completion techniques similar to the reduced cluster spacing used in the Marcellus.

Here are the top value name natural gas stocks to buy at Jefferies.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: APC) is a top stock to buy at almost every Wall Street firm we cover. Anadarko has discovered more than 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Rovuma Basin area, offshore Mozambique. The area is touted to contain around 250 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, a volume sufficient enough to meet global natural-gas demand for two years. The company also is planning to build the second-largest liquid natural gas (LNG) export terminal in the world to serve the energy-hungry Asian countries. Jefferies has a $111 price target for this top name. The Thomson/First Call estimate is at $105. Investors are paid a small 0.4% dividend.

Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLR) is one of the top companies in the oil and natural gas rich Bakken shale. Some 88% of all the firms production comes from this coveted area. Jefferies has a $98 price objective, while the consensus target is a touch higher at $99.50.

Devon Energy Corp. (NYSE: DVN) is another top name to buy at Jefferies. The stock is the fourth-largest holding in T. Boone Pickens’s BP Capital hedge fund. Devon plans to spend some $6.4 billion to $7 billion in capital expenditures in 2013, with a large part directed toward placing the company as an onshore exploration and exploration company. As well, Devon has a joint venture with Kirby Oil Sands that will help boost its oil sands production by an annualized 20% to 2020. Jefferies has a $71 price target, and the consensus is at $70. Investors are paid a 1.6% dividend.

Newfield Exploration Co. (NYSE: NFX) was upgraded to Buy yesterday at Stifel. Better-than-expected first-quarter production makes Newfield’s full-year forecast seem conservative, and the company likely will raise its guidance sometime this year. Jefferies has a $32 price target for the stock. The consensus target is $30. A move to the target would represent a 30% gain for investors.

Oasis Petroleum Inc. (NYSE: OAS) recently printed a 52-week high. By aggressively developing its Bakken acreage, Oasis was able to grow its oil production by 102% last year. The company plans to continue to grow Bakken oil production in the year ahead, with a budget to spend $897 million to drill 105.8 net wells. Jefferies has a $57 price objective, though the consensus target is much lower at $44. Once again, a move to the price target would reflect an increase of more than 30% for shareholders.

Penn Virginia Corp. (NYSE: PVA) has emerged as a focused Eagle Ford pure play with a high-quality, concentrated acreage position in what increasingly appears to be the continuation of the core area of the volatile oil window in Gonzales and Lavaca Counties in Texas. The Jefferies price target for this aggressive small cap name is $6.50, the same as the consensus target. A move to the target is almost a 40% gain for investors.

Swift Energy Co. (NYSE: SFY) engages in developing, exploring, acquiring and operating oil and natural gas properties in Louisiana and Texas. CEO Terry Swift recently stated that the company expects to have high-value activity in the Eagle Ford shale after a transaction takes place at the end of the third quarter. Jefferies has a $17 price target, and the consensus is higher at $20.

Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: WLL) wraps up the top value names to buy at Jefferies. Whiting was one of the companies that boosted production in the Bakken shale, the largest U.S. shale formation, by 1.2% from March. Output was up 33% from April 2012. Jefferies has a $58 price objective, and consensus is at $60.

We have written extensively about the coming American oil independence. These quality value names are focused on the top shale deposits in the United States and are poised to be leaders for years to come. Investors that start to acquire positions now may be well rewarded in the not too distant future.