Gasoline prices remain in the headlines, and leave an impression every time a driver fills their tank as prices hit new highs.
Oil prices are a global issue, with OPEC and the US being the biggest producing regions. Producers face mixed incentives about increasing production longer-term, including messages from the futures markets.
Gasoline and diesel refiners face reduced capacity, leaving them struggling to meet even historically normal levels of demand despite high potential profit margins.
We remain overweight the Energy sector, as analysts continue to raise earnings estimates and the sector is very favorably valued, though the picture has become somewhat more mixed as crude oil prices have been volatile recently. News of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19 and corresponding constraints on international travel have renewed concerns about fuel demand, while OPEC’s decision to go ahead with output increases has reduced the earlier concerns about insufficient supply.
The recent returns of the Energy sector have been dramatic: in just two weeks from its latest trough on November 6th (just before the Pfizer vaccine news hit), the S&P 500 Energy sector rose 37%, the biggest return of any of the major sectors by a wide margin. The overall S&P 500 index, meanwhile, returned only 3.6% in that period. Most recently, the gains in Energy have cooled somewhat, but the sector (as of Dec. 2nd) is still up 30% from its November 6th level, well ahead of all other S&P 500 sector returns over the period.