The Quarterly MLP Report Card

The third quarter is in the books, and it was one MLP investors would rather forget. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) began the quarter near $60 a barrel (bbl) following a strong second quarter. But the benchmark oil price would plunge 24% in Q3, taking nearly every MLP down with it. Natural gas prices fared better, but still dropped 12% during the quarter. For the first time in three years, natural gas prices remained under $3 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) for an entire quarter.

The impact of continued weakness in commodities prices was brutal. The Alerian MLP Index, which consists primarily of large and mid-cap energy MLPs and captures about 75% of the sector’s market capitalization, had a total return of -21.1% for the quarter. The average total return for MLPs as a whole was -26.5%. In fact, the decline was so broad that only three of the 127 publicly traded partnerships in my database — the refiners Alon USA Partners (NYSE: ALDW), CVR Refining (NYSE: CVRR) and Northern Tier Energy LP (NYSE: NTI) — registered a positive total return for the quarter. ALDW was the best with a 15.5% return.

Here are the top 10 performers for the quarter, sorted in order of descending Q3 total return. Note that none are conventional midstream MLPs:

  • EV = Enterprise value in millions as of Oct. 19
  • Q3 = Q3 total return calculated from the close on June 30 to the close on Sept. 30, adjusted for dividends paid during the quarter
  • YTD = Year-to-date total return

The bottom 10 performers for the quarter, starting with the worst, are this year’s usual suspects among the coal producers, fracking sand producers and oil and gas producers:


Despite the Q3 beatdown, there are still a number of partnerships in positive territory for the year. Here are the top 10 for the year through Q3:


Here’s hoping we get an extended bounce in Q4.

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