OPEC announced last week that they don’t see oil prices trading at $100 again in the next decade. Miraculously, the consortium is now considering a return to production limits as the best means to influence market prices of oil. Even in its most optimistic assessment in a new report, OPEC only sees oil rising to $76 in 2025, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Yet, despite the pessimistic outlook, OPEC members are planning acquisitions in the short-term. An oil industry website, www.fuelfix.com separately reported that Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil concern, is planning to spend $80 billion on overseas acquisitions. Beyond this announcement, falling energy prices have spurred a wave of M&A activity in the sector, rising 58% year over year in 2014 to $355 billion.
Despite their enviable position at the top of the energy complex, OPEC is a notoriously bad predictor of oil prices. In fact, one might argue they are a contrarian indicator. In 2007 OPEC’s annual report projected oil prices at $50-60 per barrel through 2030. In 2010, post financial crisis when demand fell off a cliff, OPEC’s annual report paradoxically increased projected oil prices to $75-85 per barrel until 2020, then increasing to $106 by 2030. In 2014 OPEC’s annual report increased projected oil prices to $110 until 2020. New projection, $76 per barrel to 2025.
What is an investor to do when the most collusive organization in the world can't even predict pricing? Seek historical precedent. The 45% bounce that we have seen in Brent since January 13th is ahead of the average pace of previous oil price declines back to the 1970's. Coming out of the 30 worst oil price declines, on average, Brent bounces 36% in the 12 months following the bottom.
If history continues to play out, cheap Energy stocks may be an interesting play. The Energy sector historically bounces in sympathy with crude after oil prices bottom. INEXPENSIVE Energy stocks do even better. Within Energy, refiners tend to fare particularly well. We've experienced this so far with cheap Energy stocks returning 18.2% since the January 13th bottom in oil prices. Refiners have done particularly well, returning 26.1%.