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For this sector, earnings just don’t seem to matter

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
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Where do these stocks get all of their energy?

In the month of April, energy has been the best-performing sector in the , rising 4.7 percent while the index has fallen slightly. What's odd is that this outperformance comes even as energy stocks are looking at the biggest earnings decline in the S&P.

The "blended earnings growth rate" (which combines the earnings of the companies that have already reported with analyst estimates of those yet to report) is 0.6 percent for the S&P 500 as a whole, according to FactSet. But for the first quarter of 2014, the energy sector earnings are actually expected to decline by 8.9 percent from Q1 2013. This number is heavily weighed down by the expected decline in earnings from integrated oil giants Exxon Mobil and Chevron.

Read More Why April's best sector could keep soaring in May

For comparison, the second-best performing sector in April, utilities, is looking at year-over-year earnings growth of 15.2 percent—the highest of any sector save telecom.

Traders are betting on this sector

So what explains this apparent disparity in energy stocks?

"The story is that most of the energy names trade with a high correlation to crude prices," said Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services.

"The energy sector has certainly benefited from sector rotation in recent weeks, but [benchmark] WTI crude oil staying buoyed above $100 is the main inertia behind the outperformance," said Jeff Kilburg of KKM Financial.

Indeed, crude oil has risen nearly 3 percent this year. And in fact, at its current level above $101 per barrel, it is trading about the highest peaks it reached in November, December, or January.

At this point, betting on crude might be a better call than simply betting on the S&P.

"I am looking at buying June crude oil futures at $101.60," Iuorio wrote to CNBC.com. "And if crude continues to show strength, then I think that the energy names should continue higher as well."

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