February 4, 2023

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Fossil-Fuel Shares Lead the Stock Market. How Awkward.

2 min read

It is no secret that the stock market has been rocky since the start of the year. Tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon have been no help at all. Their shares have all had double-digit percentage declines.

So far in 2022, the S&P 500 is down more than 13 percent, and it briefly dipped more than 20 percent below its peak, putting stocks in bear market territory. Dismal as the stock market may be, the situation looks even worse if you are worried about the future of the planet. The fact is that only one broad stock sector has provided consistent returns over the last year: old-fashioned fossil fuel, and the companies that extract, refine, sell and service it.

In fact, when I looked at a performance table of the top companies in the S&P 500 for 2022, I found that 19 of the top 20 spots belonged to companies connected, in one way or another, with fossil fuel. The best performer was Occidental Petroleum, with a gain of 142 percent.

This isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, is vying with Apple for the distinction of being the world’s most valuable publicly traded company. For much of the last year, the rising price of oil has outpaced the value of businesses based on silicon chips.

If you are paying attention to science, this is awkward in the extreme. To cite just one recent, important report, a body of experts convened by the United Nations and known as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, found in February that the world’s cities, farms and coastlines are insufficiently protected from the dangers that climate change has already wrought, including increasingly severe droughts and rising seas. Incessant burning of fossil fuels, the report found, will make matters much worse.

Yet for short-term investors, energy is looking better than ever.

Russia’s assault on Ukraine and the mounting Western sanctions are improving prospects for fossil fuel, Bank of America noted in a report to clients on…

Jeff Sommer

2022-06-03 18:43:06

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