Let’s clear that headline up right away to avoid confusion. No, airline stocks and the U.S. Global Jets ETF (NYSEArca: JETS) probably would not benefit if oil returned to $100 per barrel.
However, some analysts believe a more normalized oil price could be beneficial to JETS and the airline stocks the ETF holds. With oil prices sliding to multi-year lows, some sell-side analysts think investors are not giving airline stocks enough credit for the benefits of lower fuel costs.
“Cash flow impact meaningful: Airline multiples have contracted in 2015 as equity investors are hesitant to give full valuation to fuel decline-driven earnings growth. This is somewhat understandable given the volatility of fuel prices,” according to a Raymond James note posted by Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.
After stumbling out of the gate, falling in unison with oil prices, JETS has recently honored the theory that an effective way of shorting oil is to be long airline stocks as crude declines. Over the past month, the United States Oil Fund (NYSE: USO) is lower by more than 14%, but JETS, the lone airline ETF, has climbed 4.3% over that period.
“However, given the large amount of cash being returned to shareholders and deleveraging of the balance sheets, we believe that multiples will expand once fuel prices return to more “normal” levels, likely in 2017,” according to Raymond James.
Indeed, JETS member companies, at least the ETF’s largest holdings, have recently been rewarding investors with increased dividends and buybacks. Last month, United Continental (NYSE: UAL) said it will repurchase $3 billion worth of its own shares.