Crude oil prices and energy stocks are diverging in 2019-how to play it

Posted by jbrumley on December 12, 2019 4:17 PM

By Keris Lahiff, CNBC

An unusual divergence is occurring in the energy space.

Crude oil prices and energy stocks, often in lockstep, have split apart this year. As crude prices have risen nearly 30% in 2019, the XOP oil & gas exploration and production ETF has fallen 20%.

Mark Newton, president of Newton Advisors, says it's too tough to call a bottom in energy since the group has been in a downtrend since spring. However, he does see some key levels to watch.

"You really have to get over $22 in the short term to even pay attention," Newton said on CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Wednesday. "Anything under $20 would certainly mean all bets are off and this could go further to the downside to the mid-teens."

The XOP ETF, which holds Chevron and ExxonMobil among its top holdings, closed Wednesday's trading at $21.39.

Newton does see one comeback energy trade that could buck the trend - Phillips 66.

"This is one stock that actually happens to be in an uptrend. It's been trending higher for the majority of the last few months. You have actually pulled back a little bit in recent weeks. This will set up for a decent area to consider buying dips anywhere between $105 to $110, thinking that this likely can get back right near former highs that were seen last fall near $123," said Newton.

Phillips 66 closed Wednesday's session at $112.21. Shares are up more than 30% in the past six months.

Other potential outliers have caught the eye of John Petrides, portfolio manager at Tocqueville Asset Management.

"What you do is you stick with the super majors, the top of the capital expenditure stack, because they control all the cards. ... That's where you're going to find the survivors," Petrides said during the same segment. "We think that on the larger cap super majors where you're finding good dividend yield, strong balance sheets and the ability to adjust their capex, ... a company like Chevron comes to mind here."

Petrides says Chevron offers value for the long term. Chevron said earlier this week that it expects to write down the value of its assets by $10 billion to $11 billion this quarter. It was up slightly in Thursday's premarket, a day after falling 1.4% to $116.23.

Disclosure: Petrides owns Chevron shares.