Download the Schwab app from iTunes®Close

Energy Sector Rating: Neutral

The Energy sector includes energy equipment and services, and oil, gas and consumable fuels.

Amid the ongoing global energy crisis, the Energy sector has outperformed the overall market since the COVID-19-crisis-related market lows in March 2020. Nevertheless, it is still one of the worst longer-term performers—despite crude oil trading at seven-year highs—as the clean energy movement and associated regulatory risks have loosened the sector’s historical relationship with the price of oil. As the energy transformation advances, many companies in the sector haven't ramped up capital expenditures and production along with rising oil prices, as they have done historically. The silver lining is that if there were a significant decline in oil prices, they will be less exposed to stranded assets (investment that becomes obsolete). 

Valuations in the Energy sector are attractive relative to the other sectors. Despite the strong gains in energy stock prices, they have not kept up with rapidly rising earnings expectations. This is not surprising, as investors have remained wary of the boom/bust sector and energy transition, while equity analysts found optimism amid the combination of rising oil prices boosting revenues and restrained expense growth.

Meanwhile, oil inventories have declined. With the reopening of the global economy, the recovery in demand for oil has outstripped supply by cautious producers—OPEC and U.S. producers alike—driving inventories lower. A continued decline in inventories against the backdrop of higher demand is inherently supportive for oil and potentially energy companies.

However, numerous uncertainties surround the price of oil, with the potential for renewed OPEC disagreement, slowing economic growth in China, and potentially harsh regulations related to the transition toward clean energy.

There are still many positive attributes of the sector that could spur renewed outperformance, but until the risks are alleviated and the positives reassert themselves, we think that marketweight exposure to the energy sector is appropriate at this time.

Positives for the sector:

  • Oil prices are being supported by improving demand, curtailed supply and a drawdown in inventories
  • Large, diversified energy companies have strong balance sheets and have become more disciplined with expense and investment management—though the high price of oil could erode this self-control
  • The ongoing recovery of the global economy and expansion phase of the U.S. economic cycle bodes well for the continued recovery in oil demand
  • Valuations are attractive relative to other sectors

Negatives for the sector:

  • Less cohesiveness within OPEC is causing higher volatility in oil prices
  • The strong U.S. dollar is inconsistent with recent strength in oil prices
  • Increasingly onerous regulatory environment—though implementation is likely to be measured
  • U.S. oil and gas majors have been slow to shift towards clean energy—but potential subsidies might encourage greater adoption of renewables
  • Shareholder activism has risen

Risks to the sector:

  • Easing in Iranian sanctions and increased U.S. production could increase oil supply and weigh on prices
  • OPEC discord could lead to a price war
  • Numerous risks to global growth stemming from COVID-19 or geopolitical flareups 
  • A significant rise in market volatility and rise in the U.S. dollar
  • Trend toward clean energy to reduce oil demand in the long term
  • Weakening Chinese growth could reduce oil demand

What do the ratings mean?

The sectors we analyze are from the widely recognized Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS®) groupings. After a review of risks and opportunities, we give each stock sector one of the following ratings:

  • Outperform: likely to perform better than the broader stock market*
  • Underperform: likely to perform worse than the broader stock market*
  • Neutral: no current view on likely relative performance

 

* As represented by the S&P 500 index

Want to learn more about a specific sector?  Click on a link below for more information or visit Schwab Sector Views to see how they compare. Clients can log in to see our top-rated stocks in the Energy sector.

Communication Services Industrials
Consumer Discretionary Information Technology
Consumer Staples Materials
Financials Real Estate
Health Care Utilities

 

What You Can Do Next

Important Disclosures

Schwab Sector Views do not represent a personalized recommendation of a particular investment strategy to you. You should not buy or sell an investment without first considering whether it is appropriate for you and your portfolio. Additionally, you should review and consider any recent market news.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market conditions. Data contained herein from third-party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed. Supporting documentation for any claims or statistical information is available upon request.

Forecasts contained herein are for illustrative purposes only, may be based upon proprietary research and are developed through analysis of historical public data.

Indexes are unmanaged, do not incur management fees, costs and expenses and cannot be invested in directly. For more information on indexes please see www.schwab.com/indexdefinitions.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results and the opinions presented cannot be viewed as an indicator of future performance.

Investing involves risk including loss of principal.

Currencies are speculative, very volatile and are not suitable for all investors.

Commodity-related products carry a high level of risk and are not suitable for all investors. Commodity-related products may be extremely volatile, illiquid and can be significantly affected by underlying commodity prices, world events, import controls, worldwide competition, government regulations, and economic conditions.

International investments involve additional risks, which include differences in financial accounting standards, currency fluctuations, geopolitical risk, foreign taxes and regulations, and the potential for illiquid markets. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks.

The policy analysis provided by the Charles Schwab and Co., Inc., does not constitute and should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any political party.

The Schwab Center for Financial Research (SCFR) is a division of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.

(1221-168N)

Thumbs up / down votes are submitted voluntarily by readers and are not meant to suggest the future performance or suitability of any account type, product or service for any particular reader and may not be representative of the experience of other readers. When displayed, thumbs up / down vote counts represent whether people found the content helpful or not helpful and are not intended as a testimonial. Any written feedback or comments collected on this page will not be published. Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. may in its sole discretion re-set the vote count to zero, remove votes appearing to be generated by robots or scripts, or remove the modules used to collect feedback and votes.