What’s next for MLPs?

For my first post back I want to update the last post I did before my hiatus. On Feb 10, I posted on how well the MLP sector did in January, with it being the second best January ever, and that good early year performance usually leads to strong results going forward. Lets see what the MLP sector has been up to since then.

The chart below shows the performance of the AMJ ETF that tracks the MLP sector. What a year so far is all I can say! The MLP index total return for Q1 2013 was 19.7%, far outpacing the SP500. That’s a dam good year of performance in just 3 months. MLP s have advanced a little further in April as expected, given that April is a dividend capture month and historically does well as I’ve discussed before. I hope you enjoyed some these gains – this was a great risk/reward setup at the beginning of the year and at the end of January.

AMJ chart Apr 30 2013


The performance in many individual names has been even more impressive. YTD performance, price-only, even with the recent pullbacks: EPD – 25%, NGLS – 27%, TRGP – 28%, PAA – 28%, WMB – 18%, KMI – 12%, KMP – 18%. OKS was about the only real dog among the big MLPs and even that horrible performance was 2% up plus the dividend. Some of the more spec names like LNG and GEL are up almost 50% and 34% respectively. Needless to say that this kind of performance in such a short time doesn’t come around very often. Obviously, the next question is what now?

A couple items to look at to give us an idea of what MLPs could do from here are valuations and historical patterns. First, historically, May is not a good month for MLPs. Its the second worst month, after November. You get the fade of the dividend capture trade, you get equity issuance by many MLPs, and you get part of the general market ‘sell in May’ effect. Second, MLP valuations are not as compelling as the were in November of last year, nor at the beginning of this year. The chart below is the one I like to use for MLP valuation.

MLP historical yield and spread chart apr 30 2013


On a yield basis, MLPs are approaching lows in yield since the 2008 crash, but not by much. On a yield spread basis MLPs are not as compelling either and are approaching the average spread. However, historically even these average spreads have led to good returns in the past. Also, compered to other yield based investments MLPs, even at these ‘low’ yields of 5.8% look pretty darn attractive especially against what I think are over valued yield investments like REITs, Utilities, and Junk bonds. Basically. I’d be looking here for a mild pullback in May generating some good setups for the rest of the year. As always, I prefer individual names vs the ETFs and I prefer to have more growth over yield. WMB, ARP, CLMT, and TRGP are some of the more growth oriented names that I like. And I’m always looking for ways to own some of the big boys especially Kinder Morgan and Enterprise Products and good prices.

Hope that helps.

Disclosure: currently long CLMT, ARP, and WMB with some tight stops.

Full Disclaimer - Nothing on this site should ever be considered advice, research or the invitation to buy or sell securities. These are my personal opinions only.

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6 Responses to What’s next for MLPs?

  1. Del Clark says:

    Tahnks Paul. Good article. Any thoughts on TGP?

    • libertatemamo says:

      Hi Del. shipping has been brutal the past few years. I think TGP is just OK. You’re looking at a 7ish yield with 7% growth. I think there are better total return stories out there. In shipping I prefer the parent company TK. Lower div but with a hell of a lot more upside potential.

      My 2 cents.


      • Del Clark says:

        Thanks Paul. I have EPD and TGP in a taxable account (both purchsed in Aug 2010) and EEQ in an IRA. EPD is certainly the star. EEQ has been the laggard.

  2. Jeff Mattson says:

    Paul, my father’s advisor recommended a new CEF that will invest primarily in MLPs. I expressed my concern with high fees, but was also trying to do a current general valuation like you do with yield and spread for AMZ. However, I couldn’t find the graphs on the Alerian website. Here is the prospectus for the new fund: http://wealthmanagement.ml.com/publish/mkt/prospectus/pdfs/GER-Renaissance-Fund-Brochure-Prospectus.pdf

    I would greatly appreciate any feedback, thanks.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Jeff, I don’t keep track of MLP spreads like I used to since I went 100% quant. But a quick check on Portfolio123 for MLP valuation tells me they are quite expensive relative to the market. For example, MLPs trade at an EV/EBITDA of 23, div yield of 5.91% vs an EV/EBITDA of 8, div yield of 5.21% for a large cap value dividend yielding portfolio. That says stay away to me but MLPs are in a bull market, have been for years, and which could very well continue. They’ve been very expensive relative to the market for a few years now.

      And besides the fees being exorbitant, the initial sales load for the offering is quite high for that CEF. If he invests in the offering your father will pay approx 4.7% in fees the first year. If he really wants to be in MLPs, and is OK with the volatility, fees, leverage of an MLP CEF then something like KYE seems like a better choice to me. It has a good track record, a 5.9% yield, and trades at a 6 discount to NAV.


      • Jeff Mattson says:

        Thanks for the prompt response Paul. I noticed your posts about MLPs made some pretty good predictions even before using EV/EBITDA, but I also find the quant metrics quite compelling. I will pass this info on to my father and he will probably just tell his advisor to not make any changes.

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