Energy’s Turn to Party?

This should have been a tough month in the income space.

The 10-year Treasury yield is up to 2.32% from 2.06% on Sept. 8.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said this week the Fed would keep gradually raising its overnight benchmark rate, out of conviction that the inflation it hopes to forestall will show up eventually despite consistently falling far short of the central bank’s 2% target.

The U.S. dollar has rallied as well, boosted by the rollout of a Republican tax reform plan that promises a tax amnesty for the repatriated overseas profits of U.S. companies, along with a tax cut for business proprietors and other high earners.

This is the sort of backdrop that once might have caused most income-oriented investments to sell off. But so far every dip has been bought.

Despite the dollar’s strength, the overseas component of our portfolio continues to lead the way.

The iShares MSCI Brazil Small-Cap ETF (NSDQ: EWZS) recommended four months ago as part of the inaugural lineup is up 30%, and the four European multinationals added in July have since returned almost 10%, on average. All other overseas picks save Vodafone (NSDQ: VOD) are in the green as well.

The same can’t yet be said about our midstream energy contingent. But there are positive signs on this front as well.

The most important tell is that stronger global energy demand has started to drain the three-year-old crude glut. The drawdown of inventories in the U.S. has been slowed by disruptions from Hurricane Harvey. But overseas crude stores are on the wane and fuel demand everywhere has been robust.

This is already starting to be reflected in higher share prices of U.S. refiners, and filtering through to refining logistics MLPs like Andeavor Logistics (NYSE: ANDX). Most midstream recommendations remain out of favor, but they could be next if energy prices are meaningfully higher next year, as I expect.

Global growth indicators remain promising, and U.S. auto buyers continue to snap up gas-guzzling trucks. The forming La Niña weather anomaly increases the odds that the coming U.S. winter will be in the aggregate much colder than the unusually warm ones of the past two years, which could propel natural gas and propane prices higher.

Energy Transfer Equity (NYSE: ETE) is the large-cap portfolio recommendation with most leverage to the price of oil, which would improve its gathering volumes and margins and likely add to traffic on its oil pipelines. Failing that it could merge with its subordinate MLP in a transaction likely to favor the founder and his huge ETE stake.

Archrival Enterprise Products Partners (NYSE: EPD) is a much safer bet, and is now yielding a very attractive 6.5%.

A combination of higher energy prices and stagnant interest rates could spark the long awaited midstream rally. And the sector has already proven it can remain solvent and liquid with $50 crude and $3/mmBTU natural gas.

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