The energy recovery that many investors have been betting on for the past year is taking much longer to materialize than originally expected. As a result, quite a few of them are pulling out of energy stocks. For investors with a longer time horizon, though, that makes it a great time to reexamine some stocks in the industry that are now selling for much less.
So we asked three Foolish contributors who focus on the energy sector to each highlight a stock they think would make a smart addition to your portfolio in June. Here's a look at why they picked EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG), NOW Inc. (NYSE:DNOW), and Helmerich & Payne (NYSE:HP).
A premium oil company for any market
Matt DiLallo (EOG Resources): While the oil market is getting better, the industry isn't out of the woods just yet. That's because oil prices have bounced around the $50-a-barrel mark for most of the year, which is below the consensus expectations forecasters had at the start of 2017. That could become a problem for weaker producers down the road because many still have lingering issues to work through.
That said, the current state of the oil market isn't a concern for EOG Resources because it spent the entire crude price downturn improving its operations so it could thrive at lower oil prices. It did so by focusing on growing its inventory of premium-return wells, which are those it defines as achieving 30% returns at $40-a-barrel oil.
This shift toward drilling premium-return wells has proved to be a game-changer for the company. For example, the average premium well it drilled in 2016 delivered 200,000 barrels of oil in its first year at a cost of just $7,600 per first-year barrels of oil equivalent per day. Contrast that with its non-premium wells, which produced half as much oil and cost $17,200 per first-year barrel equivalent per day. Because EOG Resources gets so much more bang for its buck with premium wells, it plans to spend 80% of its capital on those wells this year, up from 50% last year. The results from this shift toward premium have been nothing short of remarkable, with the company announcing last month that it absolutely crushed its first quarter guidance, beating expectations across the board.
Aside from the higher returns, another benefit to this shift is that EOG can deliver compelling production growth at a lower breakeven point than its rivals. While many competitors need oil prices to hit $55 a barrel if they are to fund their 2017 budgets, and others plan to outspend their cash flows, EOG Resources expects to grow production 18% this year while living within cash flow at just $50 oil. That capital efficiency could prove to be a significant competitive advantage because some of its weaker peers might need to start rethinking their spending plans if crude prices don't improve, lest they drill themselves deeper into debt.
As EOG's recent first-quarter report shows, it can flourish while others are at risk of wilting, which is what makes it a top oil stock to consider buying this month.
Increased oilfield activity is set to profit investors in this key supplier
Jason Hall (NOW Inc.): The market hasn't been kind to oilfield equipment and parts distributor NOW Inc. in recent years -- and for good reason, considering that oil and gas producers cut their purchases of the products it sells sharply during the early stages of the oil downturn.
Yet even after multiple quarters of sequential improvement in revenue so far this year, the market continues to view NOW in an unfavorable light, with shares down 13% year to date.
But that creates an opportunity for investors. To start, according to Baker Hughes' June 2, 2017, rig count, there are more than twice as many land rigs operating in the U.S. and Canada than there were one year ago. All those rigs will consume a lot of the parts and supplies that NOW sells, which puts the company on track to return to profitability faster than the market may expect. This is especially true considering that, as Matt points out above, some producers are able to make money at substantially lower oil prices than they could in the past. And that means oilfield activity will be much higher than $50 oil could support one year ago.
Combine that with NOW Inc.'s position as a major supplier, and its prospects are probably better than the market thinks.
The potential for a stock rise is already in the oil patch
Tyler Crowe (Helmerich & Payne): Let's continue that theme Jason touched on: rising rig counts. The last Baker Hughes report put total rigs in the field at 916. That's well below the 1,800 rigs that were drilling pre-crash, but there is a new dynamic here that needs to be considered. The rigs deployed today are much more efficient at drilling, and the ones that are drilling have to do much more complex jobs. That makes Helmerich & Payne, with its fleet of high-specification rigs, a top stock pick for June.
Even though oil producers have looked to cut costs at every turn to reach lower breakeven prices and eke out modest profits in today's oil market, there has actually been a flight toward quality in the rig market. Those companies currently drilling are opting to rent rigs with higher specifications, such as AC drives rather than older drive-train mechanisms.
This flight to rig quality has played in Helmerich & Payne's favor over the past couple of quarters. At one point, management said it was deploying one new rig every 52 hours as the market started picking up over the past six months. Also, the company has captured greater market share in North America.
Helmerich & Payne's earnings took a hit these past two quarters because it had to spend heavily to bring all those rigs online so quickly. In the coming quarters, though, those costs will subside, and the company will be in a situation where its rigs are in the field while costs come down.
Despite this rather positive outlook, the company's stock has stumbled rather hard lately, to the point where its shares now have a 5.2% dividend yield. This seems like an opportune time to buy a stock in a company that has proved over the years to be a great steward of shareholder capital.