MLPs shrugged off another week of declining commodity prices to finish higher for the second straight week. The Alerian MLP Index (AMZ) was up 1.3% overall, while the Equal Weight version (AMZE) finished the week down 0.6%. In the 8 trading days starting 12/16 (the first day of Hanukkah this year), AMZ has gained 9.1%.
Natural gas did its best to catch up with oil’s decline this week, down around 13% on continued warm weather. At nearly 60 degrees on Christmas Eve in the suburbs of Philadelphia, a white Christmas it was not.
So far this month the AMZ remains down 5.7%, on pace for a third straight negative month to close out the year. Year to date, AMZ has produced positive total return of 4.8%, and should make it 6 straight positive return years for MLPs and 13 positive years out of 15 since 2000. MLPs (as a diversified group, on average) continue to produce consistently positive returns through a variety of environments.
Update: AMZ vs. AMZE
Large cap outperformance from KMP and others, combined with upstream MLPs being crushed by the commodity glut, led to a record year in 2014 for the Alerian MLP Index vs. the Alerian MLP Equal Weight Index. Each index has a weighting system that doesn’t seem quite right. EPD at nearly 18% of the AMZ by itself seems like an unreasonable depiction of the MLP universe. But in the AMZE, EPD and ARP and HCLP all have the same weight, which is too far in the other direction. In our view, the answer is for both indices to increase the number of MLPs included beyond 50 names, which would make them both more representative of the MLP market.
A true representation of the MLP universe performance is somewhere in the middle of the AMZ and AMZE, but as shown above that middle is much wider than usual.
Winners & Losers
The big winners this week were a random mix of four 2014 IPOs and BKEP. USDP and JPEP were both October IPOs that have traded very poorly. Even after this week, JPEP closed the week 36% below its IPO price, and was the biggest MLP loser last week. HMLP likewise is trading below IPO price. DM, on the other hand, popped on day one and hasn’t slowed down since. Upstream MLPs dominated the bottom 5, as you would expect on a negative oil and gas week absent company-specific news.
JPEP and BKEP went from the bottom 5 to the top 5 this week, no other repeats when compared with last week.
With just 3 trading days left, DM is making a run for the top spot in 2014, but PSXP is still clinging to the lead for now. On the downside, it’s still anyone’s game. I can’t recall a year that had a wider disparity between the winners and losers. As the commodity price shock works its way through the MLP system, expect a similarly wide spread between winners and losers in 2015.
News of the (MLP) World
There was very little news this week, as expected. EEP and ETP announced details of previously announced transactions, cleaning things up before year end. Expect about the same level of press release action next week.
M&A / Growth Projects