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MLP Week Thoughts: Euro Trashed Again

|Includes: AMJ, Global Partners LP (GLP)

MLPs had their worst Thanksgiving week ever, and it felt like a win.  That's because the S&P 500, dragged down by the European mess, also had its worst week ever, and the MLP worst was better than the market's worst.  Its kind of like when University of Texas and Texas A&M played on Thanksgiving this year, with both teams having disappointing years.  UT's worst was better than Texas A&M's this year, but it was ugly to watch.  Another football analogy would be watching the Indianapolis Colts (0-10 so far this season) when they play another terrible team in Carolina (2-8) this Sunday.  No matter who wins, its pretty much the worst the NFL has to offer.

For the week, MLPs were down 2.3%, compared with -4.7% for the S&P 500 and -2.5% for gold.  US treasuries were one of the few positive asset classes, sending yields below 2% again.

Last week, MLPs traded almost in the opposite direction of the market, this week MLPs tracked the market, just with smaller downward movements, as shown in the chart below.

To illustrate the recent relative strength of MLPs, consider the last time the S&P 500 closed below 1160 was October 7th.  On that day, the MLP Index was trading at 339.25.  So, since October 7th, the S&P 500 has gone up 0.3%, and the MLP Index has grown 6.2%.  Those numbers don't account for MLP distributions collected either, so the total return disparity would be even greater.

It looks like with one month left, and 700 basis points lead on the S&P 500, MLPs will have another year of market beating returns.  This routine outperformance is not an accident.  For the most part, MLPs are efficient users of capital as a result of the structure that forces management to go to the capital markets frequently, which serves as a check on management.  In addition, the assets MLPs own either have utility-like characteristics (but at much cheaper valuations), or they are benefiting from high commodity prices and low interest rates.  Those secular characteristics will likely remain intact at least for the next few years.  So, if you're waiting for MLPs to have a down year relative to the stock market before you get involved with the sector....  read the rest of the post here.