MLPs underperformed the S&P 500, utilities and oil prices this week, in a sustained hangover that coincided with incessant rainfall and flooding across Texas, making it an all-around gloomy post- MLP conference hangover week. The Alerian MLP Index (AMZ) declined 2.7% this week, falling 3 of the 4 trading days. Large cap MLPs underperformed (AMZE down just 2.0%). U.S. 10-year interest rate declined 9 basis points this week, but it didn’t help. There was very little MLP-specific news to drive MLP stock price movements this week, and MLPs didn’t rally Friday with the oil price rally.
Oil prices were volatile during the week falling early in the week on news of further reduction in U.S. rig count. For the week overall, oil finished 0.9% higher, and back above $60/bbl. Natural gas prices continued to slide (-8.2%). There is increasing chatter about NGL prices, which may have contributed to MLP weakness this week. Propane hit a 52-week low on Wednesday at $0.3825/gallon, its lowest level in at least 7 years, but finished the week 2.6% higher than last week. Ethane fared a bit better, but has yet to break above $0.20/gallon since late February.
At the end of last month’s rally, I noted that since August, we have yet to have back-to-back positive months, and we still haven’t. May’s performance was helped by the WPZ transaction, but large cap MLPs suffered overall, and the MLP Index declined 3.6% in May. MLPs have produced positive returns for the second quarter overall, but have a ways to go to break through into positive territory.
But, we also haven’t had two negative months in a row since January. Floating sideways on a see saw is definitely preferred to sinking. Also, June has been a seasonally smooth month in recent years. For five years in a row, MLPs have had positive returns in June, the second longest active streak of any month, so I’m optimistic June will continue recent trends.
Winners & Losers
No double digit winners this week, but some MLPs seemed to benefit from telling their stories to investors at last week’s conference, and outperformed. SMLP, ENBL and TLP perhaps fall into that category. AM traded well after receiving a positive IRS private letter ruling related to its water business. HMLP led all MLPs after its earnings release highlighted expanding backlog of FSRU drop downs.
On the downside, upstream MLPs were hit hard, despite positive oil prices week over week, with most of the selling occurring when NGL prices were reaching lows on Wednesday. KNOP executed an equity offering that sent it lower this week, after a strong week last week. LINE and NRP were repeats on the bottom 5 this week.
Year to Date
For the year-to-date, not much changed week over week. GLP climbed into the top 5 and CCLP’s lead on the sector tightened a bit, but most of the action this week involved the MLPs not pictured, the ones in between the bottom 5 and top 5.
General Partner Holding Companies
It was similarly gloomy among GPs this week, with median returns matching the AMZ’s 2.7% decline. Only 3 GPs were positive, which makes the top 5 chart below look a bit screwy. The GPs with higher propane price sensitivity were hit the hardest (TRGP, OKE).
News of the (MLP) World
The 4th MLP IPO of the year launched this week, not counting the 2 GP deals. These days a $225mm IPO seemed quaint in the face of the $1bn+ IPOs we’ve seen in the last 6 months. Also, ENLC has completed its quest to shed all physical assets with its announced drop down. Management of Pioneer (PXD) has said they expect their Eagle Ford midstream assets sales process would have a winner by the end of May, and that didn’t happen this week, so maybe next week.
M&A / Growth Projects