Aided by last year’s plunge in oil prices, transportation stocks and exchange traded funds were stellar performers, but oil’s recent resurgence is dealing a blow to once high-flying airline and railroad stocks.
Data out Wednesday show oil inventories jumped to record highs for the 14th straight week, but that did not stop West Texas Intermediate futures from surging almost 6%. The United States Oil Fund (NYSEArca: USO) is up more than 20% over the past month, sapping airline and other transportation stocks along the way, but some analysts still see reasons for optimism with transport shares.
“The road & rail industry has outperformed the broader market over the past few years, yet valuations across the group still look relatively attractive according to S&P Capital IQ. The recent drop in oil prices is providing a tailwind to truckers and rails, since this commodity represents a major input cost for both. Given that this industry is largely captured within North America, road & rail companies are not overly affected by the recent rise in the US dollar or by worries about weakness in Europe and Asia, except to the extent that those issues hurt the broader US and North American economy. As such, we think road & rail securities can be strong options for investors concerned about those issues,” said S&P Capital IQ in a new research note.
The iShares Transportation Average ETF (NYSEArca: IYT), the largest transportation ETF, allocates 47.7% of its weight to road and rail stocks while the rival SPDR S&P Transportation ETF (NYSEArca: XTN) has a combined weight of almost 53% to trucking and railroad names. [Catalysts for Transportation ETFs]
Railroad stocks have hampered IYT and XTN in recent weeks. Over the past month, CSX (NYSE: CSX) is the top-performing major railroad stock with a loss of more than 4%. Shares of Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP), Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) and Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) are all down at least 7.5% over that time. [Dow Theory Hampers These ETFs]