Energy stocks hit 52-week highs as boom rolls on

A high pressure gas line crosses over a canal in an oil field over the Monterey Shale formation where gas and oil extraction using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is on the verge of a boom on March 23, 2014 near Lost Hills, Calif.
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The U.S. energy renaissance has coincided with a stealthy boom in energy-related stocks, one that investors are starting to notice. On Tuesday, a cohort of S&P energy stocks set new 52-week highs, including Hess, EQT and Baker Hughes.

The domestic oil boom has been well-chronicled—just last week, the Energy Information Administration said the Gulf Coast churned out a record 207.2 million barrels of oil—but the halo effect on related sectors is just being felt.

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'Tip of the iceberg'

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In a research note this week, RBC Capital Markets pointed out bullish prospects for oil rig companies, particularly those active in the Permian Basin in west Texas—home to about 28 percent of the country's drilling machines. With U.S. oil on track to produce more than 9 million barrels a day in 2014, RBC expects there will be about 100 new rigs in place this year.

"In our view, land drillers will continue to outperform [oil and gas stocks], given prospective increases in rig activity and cash margins," the bank said, adding that drillers such as Helmerich & Payne, Patterson-UTI Energy and Nabors Industries were best positioned to capitalize on the boom. In the last year, the shares of all three companies have soared by double digits.

Analysts say oil and gas drillers are just starting to reap the benefits of an ancillary boom in energy-related technology and innovation.

"We are on the cusp of the next technology revolution," said Paul Pagnato, partner and managing director at HighTower, in an interview. "The impact of [the energy boom] ... will affect all aspects of technology."

"Companies are supplying drill bits as well as trains and those who supply the sand," Pagnato said. As the U.S. produces more of its own energy, manufacturers and hardware associated with energy production should see an influx of investment. "We're just at the tip of the iceberg."

Pipeline companies, particularly those building arteries to natural gas production hubs, should also do well in the current environment, observers say.

Recently, Deutsche Bank put "buy" recommendations on to several producers and master limited partnerships—publicly traded investment vehicles that have absorbed billions in private equity.

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In particular, the bank said that the "fundamental outlook of U.S. gas demand is compelling" to Kinder Morgan, which is also on the front lines of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Deutsche expects the pipeline company's stock to rise to $42, up from Tuesday's trade near $33.

Meanwhile, the domestic boom has been a relative bust for some of the world's largest oil producers. Big Oil was slow to embrace the shale revolution, and has now been forced to play catch-up as smaller oil and gas companies feast on the spoils of the boom.

Year-to-date, ExxonMobil and Chevron have both fallen about 0.6 percent, lagging the S&P energy sector's 4.8 percent surge. The lone outlier was ConocoPhillips, whose stock added more than 5 percent during the same time frame.

—By CNBC's Javier David. CNBC's Giovanny Moreano contributed to this story.