In contrast, lower-rated debt issued by pipeline operators and oil refiners has generated a better total return than the broad junk market's gain of 3.5 per cent so far this year.
Overall, the energy sector has a total return of minus 1.3 per cent for the year and that has weighed down the broader $1.3tn US junk bond market.
More from the Financial Times:
Bargain hunters arrive in energy sector
ECB poised to dash bond-buying hopes
Cash funds gain from negative bank rates
"The energy sector is dragging down the performance of high-yield, but companies that transport and refine oil are doing well," said Edward Marrinan, head of macro credit strategy at RBS Securities.
Within energy, the largest cohort, oil and gas producers, account for 54 per cent of outstanding bonds, and has registered a total return of minus 4.4 per cent this year. Oil servicers are off 7.1 per cent, while the debt of equipment makers has slid 9.1 per cent.
Read MoreLow gas prices, promotions drive Chrysler sales
Debt issued by pipelines, which accounts for 23 per cent of junk energy bonds, has gained 10.2 per cent this year. Refiners are up 5.5 per cent, but only comprise 3 per cent of low-rated energy paper.
Investors are closely following the trajectory of oil prices and whether the market's abrupt fall since the summer will halt. Nearly a third of US junk-rated bonds trading at a distressed level come from the energy sector, raising the prospect of looming debt restructurings for holders.
Jay Mueller, senior portfolio manager at Wells Capital Management, said "the past two months have been pretty ugly" for the energy sector. "I feel we haven't yet seen the bottom in the oil trade."