STOCKS

With oil looking firmly entrenched in the triple digits, big money is betting on this energetic oil-services quartet, writes Peter F. Way in Block Traders’ Oil & Gold Monitor.

Sorry to have to report this: the “correction” in oil prices may be pretty much over.

Based on options-market positioning by market makers, there are few expectations in the coming year-plus for prices under $100 a barrel. The consistency month by month of likely prices at the low end of the range is impressive. They basically live between $100 and $110.

The forecast ranges have a modest upward trend, and going into 2012 prices above $110 should not be a surprise. The stage seems set for price recoveries in many energy stocks that have backed off in the past couple of weeks.

Stocks in the oilfield-services and transportation group are typically highly cyclical businesses that thrive when energy fuel prices are strong, because producers are anxious to get product extracted, delivered, and sold while profits can be maximized.

World Fuel Services (INT) is a logistics company serving the worldwide energy-producing industry.

The market professionals apparently know the stock quite well. Their option calls have flagged profit captures averaging above 35% ten times in the last four-plus years, and 28%-plus gains more than 50 times. Drawdowns have been limited to 10% in both cases.

Based on market makers’ options positioning, the stock now ranks better than 98% of our whole population. Such large gains sometimes require patience, since drawdown periods in INT can last for weeks. But INT’s current sell target of $43.34 is 20% above Friday’s close.

Gulf Island Fabrication (GIFI) is a builder of offshore drilling platforms. Market makers now behave as though they see its stock’s price as much as 25% higher within the next three months.

Similar prior actions have been followed by average gains of 33%, with drawdowns of 7% to 8%. GIFI ranks above 96% of all stocks on our risk/reward scale.

Lufkin Industries (LUFK), a manufacturer of pump jacks and other oilfield equipment, has a current implied upside forecast of 16%, prior price gain experiences averaging 17%, and drawdowns of 10%. Its experience from these forecast levels outdoes 91% of other current stock prospects.

Patterson Energy (PTEN) has an extensive record of 12% gains against 6% temporary drawdowns following forecasts like the present. Its upside sell target of 14% stretches that average a bit, but is well within the typical maximum gains of 20%.

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Tickers Mentioned: INT, GIFI, LUFK, PTEN

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