Are MLPs A Buy After Crude Oil Decline? [SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Explore & Prod. (ETF), United States Oil Fund LP (ETF)]

crudeoilIan Wyatt: The $20 drop in crude oil was one factor contributing to last month’s stock market sell off. Most oil investments sold off sharply due to the crude oil decline. But one specific income investment remains attractive today.

With oil prices falling, investors have turned bearish on exploration and production companies. The reason is simple: as oil prices fall, oil production companies earn less for every barrel sold. However, their cost of production remains the same. This results in shrinking profit margins.

It makes sense that oil stocks are falling. The following one-year chart shows the close correlation between crude oil prices and oil stock prices. The red line shows United States Oil ETF (NYSE: USO). The blue line tracks the performance of the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas ETF (NYSE: XOP).

Crude Oil Takes Down Energy Stocks


Source: Yahoo! Finance

I’m bullish on America’s energy independence. It’s clear that excess oil supply from North America is pushing crude prices lower.

Lower prices may become the norm. That’s bad for companies that are in the business of producing oil. But a select group of energy companies will continue to thrive.

Those companies are Master Limited Partnerships, or MLPs. I’ve written a lot about MLPs in past issues of Income & Prosperity.

MLPs service the energy sector by providing pipelines, processing plants, storage, and refineries. They provide important infrastructure that allows exploration and production companies to operate. These businesses are capital intensive. It takes a lot of money to build oil pipelines or storage facilities.

Many MLPs service the energy sector with long-term contracts. They’ve agreed to provide a service for a specific fee. And that fee structure remains in place, whether oil is at $70 per barrel or $100.

My favorite MLPs profit from the growth of oil and gas production. And their profits aren’t dependent upon high oil prices.

For income investors, MLPs are a better investment than the big-oil companies. The main reason is that MLPs are required to pay out healthy dividends to their shareholders. By doing so, they’re able to avoid paying federal income taxes.

The JPMorgan Alerian MLP (NYSE: AMJ) is an exchange-traded note that tracks a popular index of MLPs. It pays a 4.4% dividend. That generous compared with a 0.8% yield from the S&P Oil & Gas ETF or the 2.9% dividend from Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM).

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