Oil stocks continue their slide and have yet to find a bottom. Just look at the chart of the U.S. Oil ETF (NYSEARCA:USO).
The verdict is still out on whether low oil prices are a net negative or a net positive for the U.S. economy and the stock market. The energy sector makes up approximately 13% of the overall market. The current consensus estimate for the S&P 500 for 2015 is roughly $130 per share. So the question is, as oil prices continue to decline, what impact will that have on S&P 500 earnings?
There are obviously many companies that benefit from lower oil prices. It seems reasonable that the gains in those sectors will offset the losses seen in the energy sector. So I recommend investing on the sunny side of the Street in companies and areas of the market that will benefit from lower oil prices.
Quite a bit of the money that was going to fill our gas tanks was benefiting other economies around the world. Now that money is staying at home and showing up at the supermarket, drug store, restaurants, and shopping malls. Just look at the latest chart for the Retail Sector ETF (NYSE:RTH). Even beaten down retailers like JC Penney (NYSE:JCP) are starting to see some consumer spending!
And lower energy prices are creating opportunities beyond the retail. It is benefiting a broad range of consumer discretionary stocks. Just where is that $25 savings at the gas pump going?
Well it can buy some booze distributed by Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ).
Or it can be spent on a dinner out at places like Texas Roadhouse (NASDAQ:TXRH), assuming you can get a table! Or how about staying in and just ordering pizza from Domino’s (NYSE:DPZ) or Papa John’s (NASDAQ:PZZA)? These charts look pretty strong as well!
The point is that there are plenty of segments of the U.S. economy that stand to benefit from the recent downturn in oil prices. And the other positive impact of lower energy prices on the economy is that it keeps prices and inflation levels low.
Finally, who are the other big importers and consumers of energy that stand to benefit from low energy prices? China and India both fall into that category. So the U.S. economy is not the only beneficiary of low oil prices.
So while the verdict is still out, I tend to believe that the net positives of lower energy prices still outweigh the negatives. Earnings season is about to kick into gear, so that will be another “tell” on the impact to corporate earnings. In the mean time, at the stock and sector level I continue to focus on the sunnier side of the Street as a source of investment opportunities.
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