Energy Sector Is Approaching Negative Seasonality

Includes: DBO, OIL, USO, XLE
by: Babak

Last summer, in June 2007, to be precise, I wrote that the caution was warranted for the energy sector. Let’s take a look to see how I did and what lies ahead for this area of the market.

The energy sector managed to push a little bit higher in July 2007 but it then succumbed to the general market weakness. So since I wrote about my apprehension, it didn’t go anywhere really for the next two months:

The strength of this sector was undeniable in 2007. In fact, last year it bucked negative seasonality to deliver one of the best sector returns. Usually, from the beginning of June to the beginning of December, energy stumbles. In fact, in the past decade only 3 years have bucked this negative seasonality. On the other hand, once December rolls around, things do tend to rock and roll.


The logic behind the seasonal influence seasonal weakness in the commodities themselves. Natural gas and oil are weakest in the summer (May to July) and strongest in winter. So right now we are just about to enter the worst time of the year to be long oil and gas stocks.

On top of that, 82% of stocks in the Energy Select SPDR (NYSEARCA:XLE) are trading above their 100 day moving average. That’s not the maximum but it is high. As well, the bullish percent for the sector is a bit “toppy,” hovering below 80%:

The smart thing to do was buy in January and March 2008 when the bullish percent spiked down to 20% (and less). But you already knew that because you know how to time the market using bullish percent charts, don’t you?

On Wall Street it depends who you listen to. Goldman Sachs is hyper-bullish on oil awaiting $150-200 a barrel oil while Lehman Bros. thinks that prices will fall to $83 a barrel in 2009 and $70 by 2010.

What about Peak Oil?

I don’t buy into “Peak Oil.” We will either discover more oil, better extraction methods for existing reserves or move to alternative energy sources. Take new discoveries for example: Thanks to the Tupi discovery, Brazil will become a major oil player - probably joining OPEC as a result. But that is years in the future, assuming all goes according to plan. Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) will have to drill more than 16,000 feet under the seabed, itself under 10,000 feet of water. The reward though is tantalizing: 5-8 billion barrels of oil and natural gas.