Investors looking for alternatives to the volatile tech sector may want to consider a triumvirate of downtrodden sectors: energy, telecom and financials, according to Barron's. The three groups are unlikely bedfellows that don't often trade in tandem, the article points out it's the first time in 28 years that the three groups have been at the bottom of the market. (For related reading, see: A Different View on a Big Tech ETF.)

Some investors are bottom fishing, and Barron's cites Thomas Lee of Fundstrat as one fan who's a buyer.

The piece notes his picks in financials include MarketAxess Holdings Inc. (MKTX​), Charles Schwab Corp (SCHW​) and Western Alliance Bancorp (WAL). T-Mobile US (TMUS​) is a telecom pick while in energy, Lee likes a FANG stock of a different stripe—Diamondback Energy which trades under the ticker FANG as well as Cheniere Energy (LNG).

There are plenty of issues for each of the sectors, which is why they have been unloved, at least relative to the broader market, in 2017. Energy stocks have been beaten up as crude prices have slipped, telecom has been hung up on due to price wars and cord-cutting for cable companies, while financial stocks have failed to keep pace with the broader stock market rally even as the Fed has raised rates.

So what's to love about these three groups? Investors may be looking for shelter from the whipsaw trading around some big-cap tech names, or to diversify their holdings. Plus investors have piled into the tech titan names, the so-called FAANG stocks of Facebook Inc. (FB), Apple Inc. (AAPL​), Inc. (AMZN​) and Google's parent Alphabet (GOOGL​). A recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch equity strategist note that's made the rounds including in this Barron's article, stated that large-cap active funds are now at their most overweight in tech ever.

And Lee says the potential easing of Dodd-Frank regulations may boost the banks while energy stocks are inexpensive compared to credit in that sector.

Lee's not alone with his affection for the energy sector. Morgan Stanley energy analyst Evan Calio sees gains ahead for the beleaguered group, which is off to "one of the worst beginnings of the year" as he told Barron's. The analyst predicts the unloved sector of U.S. exploration-and-production stocks may jump some 15% on average.

The price of oil is hovering near seven-month lows—in the mid $40s per barrel level—but Calio is bullish that it will return to the mid-to-high $50s, according to Barron's. Obviously a further drop in crude prices could alter all of these bullish calls (For more, see also: Why Oil May Plunge to $30 a Barrel.)

The analyst told the media outlet he sees a group of North American stocks getting the benefit of any rise in crude prices: Chevron Corp (CVX), EOG Resources Inc. (EOG), Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNQ) and Noble Energy Inc. (NBL).


According to the article, Calio prefers Chevron to its rival integrated oil giant, Exxon Mobile Corp (XOM) because Chevron has a lower valuation on an enterprise value/cash flow basis as well as its slightly higher dividend, which should be covered along with capital expenditures, by cash flow.

As for EOG, the company is quickly ramping up production capacity and will "be cash neutral after dividends while growing oil production" even with crude in the mid-$40s, according to a Barclays analyst cited by Barron's in the same story.

And Canadian Natural Resources is pumping out a steady stream of cash as it completes the third phase of the Horizon oil-sands project, according to the article, in which Barclays Analyst Thomas Driscoll forecasts the company will generate nearly $2 billion in free cash this year and still command about $1 billion after paying dividends. The Horizon project accounts for a quarter of the company's output and has a decades-long reserve life per Driscoll in Barron's.

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