Longtime oil bear waves the white flag, says it’s time to buy energy

Oil has hit its highest level since last October, and the comeback is finally getting some traders excited about energy stocks.

"This is the first time for our work that we have actually upgraded the energy sector from an underweight to a neutral since 2011," Piper Jaffray technical analyst Craig Johnson said Tuesday on CNBC's "Power Lunch."

His bullish call on energy stocks starts with a constructive view of the commodity.

"On the price of oil, we've reversed the downtrend off of the June 2014 high, which to us is a constructive sign, [and we have] 50-day moving averages coming back above the 200 day, suggesting that there is a trended change happening."


Oil reached $48.42 per barrel on Tuesday, leaving many speculating that it could be set to rise above the widely watched $50 level in the days ahead.

Johnson's enthusiastic view on crude makes him constructive on the SPDR energy ETF (XLE).

"From our perspective, when we see that with the crude oil price, that's a good sign. Look at the XLE [and you'll see that] another classic downtrend starting to unfold," he said. "This chart is starting to tell us something and again, we think we should be owning these at least at a market weight at this point in time."

Traders have generally been bearish on the XLE this year, and it wasn't until recent weeks that the ETF began seeing significant inflows.

But others, including Fort Pitt Capital portfolio manager Kim Forrest, remain bearish on energy stocks.

While oil prices are higher than they were a few months ago, Forrest says a bearish supply-demand imbalance remains in effect.

"I also think these stocks are range bound by the amount of supply and the lightness of demand" for crude, Forrest wrote to CNBC on Tuesday. "So if you want to buy energy, it's likely you'll get another chance."

"We're a value manager and because oil and energy, in fact, are really set by the price of the commodity of whatever pile of rocks you own, [like] if you're an energy company, we generally tend to stay away from that," she said. "But that doesn't mean we don't look at it. As you point out, Pennsylvania is a huge energy producer, mostly in natural gas and gas liquids right now, but it doesn't form my view on oil in general."

Read MoreOil prices don't have much room to run: Nasdaq energy chief

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Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

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