NYMEX Holdings: Back to the Futures

Includes: ICE, NMX
by: Hilary Kramer

In this generally difficult market, there are still areas that are hot, and the energy futures market is one such area. One place that benefits from the solid business in futures trading is the exchange itself where such futures are traded. NYMEX Holdings, Inc (NMX) is the largest exchange for energy futures and options contracts trading in the world.

Additionally, it trades contracts for gold, silver, copper, aluminum and other metals. The company went public in 2006, and despite some stumbles along the way, I like the direction it is heading. In 2006, it began using Chicago Mercantile Exchange's Globex electronic trading platform, which has proven a terrific move. Analysts believe that these two firms have merger potential.

This pick isn't without its risks. Certainly, exchanges are highly susceptible to regulatory changes. NYMEX has competition as well, in the form of Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. (NYSE:ICE). Prior to NYMEX starting its electronic trading, Intercontinental was able to capture roughly half of its crude oil market share. While NYMEX has managed to get most of this business back, no question that Intercontinental is an competitor to keep your eye on.

An analyst at BMO Capital Markets Corp recently commented "Our $140 price target is 41x our 2008 estimate, at the high end of the industry range based on the company's growth rates, upside to our estimates, and attractiveness as a merger partner." I'm feeling equally bullish on NYMEX.

Type of Stock: The largest energy futures and options contract exchange in the world.

Target Price: Currently trading at $122, I think this is a buy -- I agree with BMO Market Capital's assessment that we will see this hit $140 in the next year. Exchange stocks are a hot -- if risky -- business right now.