About two years after the panic of 2008-2009, the price of oil (i.e. West Texas Intermediate crude oil) eventually recovered to a little over $100 per barrel. But since June of 2014, it has plummeted and it is currently selling at slightly under $ 50 per barrel. This fall has pushed down the prices of energy stocks, earnings, and dividends. This has compelled many investors to think over what they should now do with their energy investments and where to find the best oil stocks. Consequently, it is very instructive to understand the basics of oil and the oil industry.
Oil is incredibly difficult, time-consuming and costly to find. But once it’s found, it costs practically nothing to pump it from the ground. The price of any good or service that has huge fixed costs but low marginal costs is going to tend to be erratic.
Despite this, when the price of oil is trading near the low end of its price spectrum, there is no shortage of pessimists who believe this state of affairs will continue forever. They ignore the fact that the same forces that pushed oil to swing so dramatically in one direction will eventually make it swing dramatically in the other direction.
We are not saying the price of oil will make a roaring comeback any time soon. In fact, (despite the fact that oil is a “finite” resource) we believe the long-term price of oil will trend downward slightly. Furthermore, we still cannot find many individual oil companies that we like unabashedly.
But we are saying we are more sanguine about what is happening in the oil industry now than we were a few years ago. And these things always take years (not months) to sort out. It is always helpful to keep long-term fundamental principles in mind. And the most important fundamental principle about oil (and energy in general) that we would like individuals to keep in mind is the following.
Oil and energy are the backbone of development. Until a viable, cheap alternative is found, their demand will never end. And when a viable alternative energy is found, the best players in the oil industry will probably find it or at least assist in bringing it to market.
Therefore, you need not bail out of energy stocks. If you haven’t sold them yet, you probably should not sell them now. And keep an eye out for those very good energy stocks that get punished undeservedly just because they are in an industry that is currently out of favor. And if you would like to see the specific oil stocks we are highest on, go to our Best-Stocks-to-Buy-Now page.