Energy stocks outperformed the broader market in the fourth quarter of 2020, but results were mixed for oil and gas companies.
Total return for the S&P 500 Energy Index was 27.8% during the quarter versus 12.1% for the S&P 500.
Industry median market capitalization growth for the top 25 oil and gas companies was 21.2%, with ONEOK Inc. posting the largest growth on a percentage basis to climb four slots to make the top 25. During ONEOK's third-quarter earnings call, the company's top executive predicted "double-digit earnings growth" in 2021.
By contrast, permitting challenges beset market cap growth at TC Energy Corp., Williams Companies Inc. and Enbridge Inc., the three lowest performing members of the group. Industry observers expect some pipeline projects will face delays and even cancellation under President-elect Joe Biden's administration.
Meanwhile, median market capitalization growth at the 15 largest U.S. oil and gas producers was 32.6%. In November 2020, news of a coronavirus vaccine candidate's efficacy coupled with news from a London conference that OPEC and its allies might limit production until prices strengthen globally sent oil equities higher.
Most recently, a surprise announcement by Saudi Arabia that it would cut oil production by 1 million barrels per day sent West Texas Intermediate oil prices above $50 per barrel for the first time since late February 2020.