If 2010 follows the pattern of the past 15 years, we are approaching the start of a seasonal climb in the price of crude oil that could present a good investment opportunity in energy-related stocks.
Oil is down from its 2009 peak of $81 per barrel seen in October, but we remain constructive on energy stocks given the improving economy and positive seasonal factors heading into the new year.
As the 15-year chart above illustrates, much of the recent drop in the price of oil lately can be explained by commodity price weakness that typically occurs from October through December, and thus does not represent a cyclical downturn.
These seasonal factors include a reduction in driving during the fall and more moderate temperatures between the summer cooling and winter heating seasons. During the 15-year period, January has typically been the month in which the seasonal oil price trend starts back up again as markets prepare for the summer driving season.
It is interesting to note that, while crude oil prices are usually soft during this time of year, energy stocks begin to strengthen in December, offering nimble investors an opportunity to capitalize on favorable seasonal strength to come.
The chart below shows month-over-month performance trends for the S&P 500 Energy Index over the past 20 years through November 2009.
On average, these large energy stocks have gained 2 percent in December over the past two decades. After a dip in January, the index has charged forward with average month-over-month gains exceeding 2 percent in three of the next four months before a seasonal falloff beginning in June.
The line graph shows the frequency of positive returns in each month. Twelve of the past 20 Decembers (60 percent) have seen positive returns for the S&P Energy Index - in April and May, positive returns have occurred in 15 of the past 20 years, or 75 percent of the measures.
We believe supply and demand fundamentals for energy will tighten as the economic recovery takes hold next year, and that energy stocks will benefit.
Earlier this month the International Energy Agency raised its 2010 forecast for global oil demand, largely as a result of accelerating economic growth in China. OPEC is also expecting oil demand to increase.
It's a different story on the supply side -- the energy team at PIRA sees net global oil output actually declining in 2010, which would tighten spare capacity to less than 1.8 million barrels per day, roughly half of current levels, and likely exert an upward pressure on prices.
This commentary is from the portfolio management team of the U.S. Global Investors Global Resources Fund (PSPFX): Frank Holmes, Brian Hicks and Evan Smith. For more investment research and insight, visit www.usfunds.com.
Please consider carefully a fund's investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. For this and other important information, obtain a fund prospectus by visiting www.usfunds.com or by calling 1-800-US-FUNDS (1-800-873-8637). Read it carefully before investing. Distributed by U.S. Global Brokerage, Inc.
Foreign and emerging market investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and less public disclosure, as well as economic and political risk. Because the Global Resources Fund concentrates its investments in a specific industry, the fund may be subject to greater risks and fluctuations than a portfolio representing a broader range of industries.
All opinions expressed and data provided are subject to change without notice. Some of these opinions may not be appropriate to every investor. The S&P 500 Energy Index is a capitalization-weighted index that tracks the companies in the energy sector as a subset of the S&P 500.