Short-term volatility in the energy markets may have weighed on master limited partnerships and related exchange traded funds, but the recent pullback may have left a cheap entry point for potential long-term investors.
“When energy prices are volatile, master limited partnership returns may follow commodity trends in the short run,” writes Brian Hahn, managing director and wealth adviser at Neuberger Berman, for InvestmentNews. “Over long periods, however, MLP returns have generally exhibited a relatively low correlation with energy prices. In fact, today’s volatile energy environment may be a key time to stay the course or, for appropriate investor profiles, even add to MLP allocations.”
Over the short-term, MLPs can show high correlation with energy prices. For instance, the JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index ETN (NYSEArca: AMJ) has dropped 29.9% and Alerian MLP ETF (NYSEArca: AMLP) has declined 20.5% over the past year while West Texas Intermediate crude oil plunged 39.5%. In the recent crude oil sell-off, investors did not distinguish MLPs from other energy-related assets and dumped the asset as crude oil prices plummeted. More recently, AMJ was up 6.5% and AMLP was 7.0% higher over the past week as WTI crude oil bounced back to $47.7 per barrel. The two MLP exchange traded products are now trading above their short-term, 50-day simple moving average.
MLPs primarily deal with the distribution and storage of energy products, so their business model is less reliant on the commodities market since MLPs profit off the quantity of oil and natural gas they are able to move around. Consequently, MLPs have historically shown a weaker correlation to energy prices over longer periods as MLPs act more like energy toll roads, profiting on the volume of oil moving through their pipelines.
“Generally speaking, since 2002, the longer the window of time, the less correlation we see between oil and MLP returns,” Hahn said.
With the markets flooded with oil and prices still depressed, basic economic theory suggests that consumption could rise to capitalize on the cheap crude. With higher consumption, MLP tollkeepers could profit off the increased transportation or storage of energy.