Do Dividend Issues Loom for Energy ETFs?

The Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLE) and rival equity-based energy exchange traded funds have been significantly less bad this year, but amid slumping earnings for oil and natural gas producers, questions linger about the ability of these companies to maintain and grow dividends.

Bright spots have been few and far between for equity-based energy exchange traded funds this year and for all the struggles the encountered by the sector, it still is not inexpensive relative to the S&P 500. In fact, the energy patch is downright pricey compared to the broader market. This after a spate of spending cuts that have not been met with widespread enthusiasm among investors. [Oil ETF Dividends Appear Safe…Sort Of]

Investors will also be keeping a close eye on dividends, especially with oil prices at $30 per barrel. Oil CEOs have pledged to maintain their dividends, but with oil prices dipping to 13-year lows, traders are growing skittish.

Oppenheimer senior analyst Fadel Gheit “is anticipating Chevron to cut its dividend any day now, the company is likely to seek alternative solutions first. Chevron already stopped its share buyback program last year. In October, Chevron cut 6,000 to 7,000 jobs. The company also announced in December a capital budget cut of 24 percent for 2016,” reports CNBC.

By not raising its dividend last year, Chevron lost its dividend aristocrat status. Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI), another XLE holding, raised its payout several times last year only to announce to a significant dividend reduction late in the year.