Oil is gushing toward the sky as new wells and new technology (hydraulic fracturing, in particular) boost U.S. oil production. The flip side is that as supplies increase, oil prices decline. CNBC just reported that U.S. crude oil prices have fallen nearly 30% since June.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlighted industries that are benefiting from the boost in U.S. oil production and the subsequent drop in fuel prices, including airlines, delivery companies and automakers.
Fuel is an airline's largest expense. The Journal says that, in total, U.S. airlines spend $51 billion a year on fuel, and that an industry trade group, Airlines for America, estimates that every penny per gallon change (up or down) equates to $190 million in annual fuel expense for the airline industry. The express delivery industry also profits because of the fuel costs associated with its planes and trucks.
A third beneficiary of falling fuel prices is the auto industry. As fuel prices drop, Americans seem to forget about being parsimonious with their gas consumption and start buying SUVs and big pickup trucks. For example, as the Journal reports, Chevrolet Suburban sales are up 16% this year. Larger vehicles have fatter profit margins, which is how automakers benefit from the rundown in oil prices.
If you want to capitalize on the drop in oil prices, take a look at Delta Air Lines (DAL). To find stocks worthy to recommend, I employ a battery of strategies modeled on the thinking of some of history's greatest investors. One of these gurus is James P. O'Shaughnessy, and my strategy based on his approach strongly supports the idea that Delta is worth buying now. It's really two strategies -- one for growth companies, and one for value companies.
The O'Shaughnessy growth strategy favors Delta's large market capitalization ($36 billion), its earnings per share, which have increased in each of the past five years, and a price-to-sales ratio of just 0.91, nicely below the 1.5 maximum allowed. The P/S ratio is a measure of how well a stock is priced. Many companies pass all of these tests. To find the real elite, however, the strategy goes one step further by looking at a stock's relative strength, which measures its performance relative to the market during the past year. Only the top-50 stocks make it into the strategy's most coveted group, those receiving a "strong recommendation." With a relative strength of 89, Delta is part of this elite list.
The O'Shaughnessy value strategy strongly supports buying automaker Ford (F). This recommendation is based on Ford's large market cap ($54 billion), strong cash flow per share ($1.90), substantial number of shares outstanding (4 billion) and high annual sales ($145 billion). Like the growth strategy, the value strategy selects a final top-50 stocks, but rather than using relative strength, it uses dividend yield as the last determinant. Ford's 3.57% yield puts it in the top 50.
Express delivery giant Federal Express (FDX) gets the nod under my Peter Lynch-based strategy. The most significant variable used by this strategy is the price-to-earnings ratio relative to growth, which measures how much an investor is paying for growth given today's stock price. A P/E/G of up to 1.0 is acceptable. FedEx's is well below this at 0.61, indicating investors are getting growth at a reasonable price.
While companies in certain industries, such as oil production, are suffering from low oil prices, others, including those mentioned above, are being helped by this environment. If you want to make a bet on low oil prices, you may do well buying any of these stocks.