Energy investing isn't easy, but there are plenty of ways for the individual investor to make a successful go of it. Whether you are looking for new ideas or simply wish to get a better handle on your current investments, here are three sources to keep in mind when it comes to our energy investments.
1. Senate LDA database
The Lobbying Disclosure Act database is one of my favorite Internet stopovers. Let's face it, our companies don't talk about lobbying, but, with the rare exception, they all do it, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars. How much are your stocks spending and what are they fighting for? It's all in this database, and it's updated on a quarterly basis.
Let's take a look at ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) for example. Year after year, Exxon is one of the biggest spenders in the lobbying world. And sure enough, this quarter is no exception, as the company spent more than $2.5 million on its lobbying efforts.
And what are the issues Exxon took a position on? Well, some you'd expect, and others not so much:
- "Discussions related to National Ambient Air Quality Standards; Discussions related to the Renewable Fuel Standard; Discussions related to Fuel Quality Standards"
- "Discussions related to the Lesser Prairie-chicken"
- "HR 624: Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, 2013; provisions related to cybersecurity; Discussions related to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Executive Order"
Reviewing your company's filings in this database can give you insight into the sorts of issues management is dealing with, even if they don't discuss them regularly.
In addition to this database, consider checking out the website opensecrets.org as well. This organization takes the time to analyze lobbying at the sector and industry level, which allows you to see the big picture and figure out how your company fits into into America's overall lobbying story.
2. Industry associations
You may be skeptical of industry associations, and therefore hesitant to turn to them for information, given that they are often pursuing specific agendas and the research and reports they issue are frequently biased. That said, often times the websites of these organizations contain valuable, bias-free information for investors. You just have to know where to look.
For example, the National Association for Publicly Traded Partnerships has a strong slate of resources for investors looking to learn more about master limited partnerships, or MLPs. The site contains not only an MLP 101 guide, but also links to third part equity research that can teach investors about the history of the sector, the pros and cons of investing, and what metrics analysts use to evaluate MLPs.
Energy investors should consider checking out the websites of these other associations:
- American Petroleum Institute
- America's Natural Gas Alliance
- American Wind Energy Association
- Solar Energy Industries Association
- World Nuclear Association
If you aren't interested in repeatedly checking in with the websites above, you can always follow these organizations using our third key source: Twitter.
Groan. Not social media! Really though, if you follow the right people in the energy industry, Twitter is exponentially more helpful than fine-tuning a Google newsfeed, and more comprehensive than any one news source can hope to be. Especially if you tune in to @TMFEnergy.
Even if you only check in with Twitter once a week, you'll find some great content ranging from energy reporters on Capitol Hill to investor relations departments. Here's an example of what's out there:
PetroChina profit up 19 percent as margins rise http://t.co/Jg7zWxS9na— FuelFix (@fuelfixblog) October 29, 2013
Of course, Twitter has also been responsible for its fair share of market volatility, something Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMP) unit holders know well. It's probably in an investor's best interest to use Twitter for research purposes only, and not for day trading stock tips.
The information you find at these sources may not make or break your investment thesis on its own, but it can give you a better picture of your company as a whole, or the potential outlook for your company's industry.