Second Quarter Could be Rough on Energy ETFs

The Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSEArca: XLE), the largest equity-based energy ETF, had a rough first quarter as highlighted by a loss of 8%. In other words, energy was one of the worst-performing sectors in the first three months of 2018 after being one of the laggard sectors in 2017.

While XLE is usually a solid performer in the month of April, some of the ETF’s major holdings historically struggle in the second quarter, potentially setting the fund up for another quarterly swoon.

Market observers and analysts argue that U.S. energy stocks are in a position to outperform broader equity markets this year, even if oil prices don’t move higher. The energy industry has grown more efficient after cutting costs in response to the plunge in crude oil prices in previous years, so they are now in a better position to improve revenue at lower oil prices.

Second-Quarter Struggles For These Energy Names

Dow component Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE:XOM), the largest U.S. oil company, and ConocoPhillips are among the major U.S. oil stocks that historically struggle in the second quarter.

“Per data from Schaeffer’s Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White, COP stock has been one of the worst stocks to own on the S&P 500 Index (SPX) in the second quarter, looking back 10 years. Specifically, COP shares have ended the quarter higher only 40% of the time, averaging a monthly loss of 3.23%,” according to Schaeffer’s Investment Research.

The second-quarter tale of the tape of Exxon is not much rosier than it is for ConocoPhillips.