Economists and analysts nearly guarantee that gas prices will rise above $4 per gallon and are likely to reach $5 per gallon by the end of this year.
While they are long on misery and short on what to do about it, I feel there’s a giant silver lining in this big grey cloud. To wit, you could make more money buying oil stocks than you lose at the pump, depending the size of your portfolio and driving habits.
I like, and own, these oil and oil-related securities: Total SA (TOT), Exxon Mobil (XOM), CSX Corp. (CSX), Norfolk Southern (NSC) and PowerShares DB Energy Fund (DBE).
I like the railroads because they are the only alternative to transportation via trucks. As the American Association of Railroads likes to point out: A freight train can move a ton of freight an average of 484 miles on a single gallon of fuel. Compare this to the trucking industry, where according to the American Transport Research Institute, fuel and oil costs are 31% of revenues, the largest of all expenses to move freight, higher even that wages for the driver.
Therefore, as oil prices rise I believe CSX and Norfolk Southern will be able to develop more business at the expense of truckers, and enjoy better pricing.
I like the integrated oils like Exxon Mobil and Total, precisely because they are integrated. That is, they control everything from the holes they dig into the ground to the price they can charge at the pump, and right now the latter is delivering a huge lift to the top line. I predict record profits for both (and the attendant public relations nightmare).
A note on Total–not your household name, I know. The company is based in France, and is an integrated oil and gas company with operations in more than 130 countries. As an “EU Zone” company, Total is the baby that’s been thrown out with the bathwater. This accounts for the company’s whopping 4.60% dividend, more than double that of XOM.
If you don’t like the concentrated risk that goes with owning individual equities, another way to play rising prices at the pump is the PowerShares DB Energy Fund. This exchange-traded fund capitalizes on prices changes on energy commodities, such as Light Sweet Crude and Brent Crude, through futures contracts.
For the record, the chart below, reprinted with permission from gasbuddy.com, shows the rise in prices since the end of January.