Sluggish economic growth in Europe, China, Brazil, India and, gulp, the U.S. has been a huge drag on oil prices and energy stocks. One name, however, has held up better than most and yet still looks like a bargain primed for both short-term gains and long-term value.
We’re talking about Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM), the integrated energy giant. It’s the bluest of blue-chip Dow components. It’s the biggest oil and gas company in North America and the biggest oil refiner in the world — and a component of InvestorPlace‘s Real America Index, representing the state of Texas. The company that has paid a dividend so dependably that its payouts have grown at an average annual rate of 6% over the last three decades.
Obvious? Maybe. Boring? Yes. But Exxon is the best single integrated-energy stock in the market right now. Here’s why:
- Oil Prices: Crude futures traded in New York are back at $92 a barrel after slipping as low as $79 less than a month ago. True, that’s a far cry from year-ago highs north of $112, but the long-term outlook for energy prices is up. The global economy won’t sit in a funk forever, and with second-half strength coming courtesy of China and Brazil’s respective stimulus plans, that rebound could come sooner than the market thinks.
- Valuation: By both trailing and forward price-to-earnings ratios (P/E), Exxon trades at just 10.5. That’s about 15% below the stock’s own five-year averages, suggesting shares are a bargain. Also, at less than 1.0, shares trade at a compelling price-to-sales ratio. Furthermore, the stock’s price/earnings-to-growth ratio — or PEG, which measures how fast shares are rising relative to their growth prospects — offers a 20% discount to its own five-year average.
- Stability: Not only does Exxon make the cut as one of InvestorPlace’s Dependable Dividend Stocks, thanks to its long history of regular and rising payouts, it’s also much less volatile than the broader market. With a beta of less than 0.8, XOM is about 20% less volatile than the S&P 500. It’s also less volatile than the wider industry. The energy sector of the S&P 500 has lost 0.8% for the year-to-date, hurt by falling energy prices and the global slowdown. Exxon, meanwhile, is up 1.7%. Add in the 2.7% yield on the dividend, and the total return comes to 4.4%.
- Quality: Exxon stands out among the oil majors as the highest quality stock. Just look at the return on equity. Exxon’s ROE stands at 25%. That’s bigger than fellow Dow component Chevron (NYSE:CVX) or ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), BP (NYSE:BP) and Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A, RDS.B).
- Growth: Exxon has greater growth potential than it’s oil major peers, too. Analysts peg the company’s long-term earnings growth rate 9%. Chevron is at 1.2%, COP gets less than 1% and BP stands at 5%
- Price Momentum: Exxon looks like a core holding, but it could get a nice short-term pop, too, since it has price momentum on its side. Shares are heading into a historically favorable seasonal period, according to data from Thomson Reuters Stock Reports, and it has a tailwind based on relative strength.
If you had to pick just one giant energy stock to play the second-half of the year and beyond, Exxon looks like the best oil major, with fundamentals, valuation and quality all at its back.