- CNBC's Jim Cramer picks the energy sector's power players, which include shares of oil refiners as well as exploration and productoin entities.
- Among the "Mad Money" host's favorites are Marathon Petroleum and EOG Resources.
"We're going sector by sector to highlight the stocks that seem best positioned right now, at this very moment," the "Mad Money" host said Monday. "What's next? Well, it's one that's on everybody's mind because of the price of it: energy."
Rising oil prices have generated continued successes for a number of energy companies as major oil-producing nations like Libya, Nigeria and Venezuela undergo domestic turmoil, thus crimping supply.
The Trump administration's reinstated sanctions on Iran have also squeezed Middle Eastern production. And the recent disappearance of a Saudi journalist could give U.S. oil companies another leg up on international rivals, Cramer said.
"The American oil stocks have been hammered because of the controversy, but that seems crazy to me," he said. "If Saudi Arabia ends up facing any kind of sanctions, that's good news for our oil producers — the group should be going higher, not lower."
All in all, this backdrop has produced a handful of "very big winners" in energy, Cramer said. But which ones are the most investable? Here's his breakdown:
The "Mad Money" host's favorite of the group was refining, marketing and transportation play Marathon Petroleum, shares of which have climbed nearly 18 percent in 2018.
The petroleum giant has a few key drivers: an uptick in gasoline exports from the Gulf Coast, where many of Marathon's refineries are located, and its $23 billion acquisition of Andeavor, which made Marathon the largest U.S. refiner.
"Marathon is now the undisputed king of the refiners. Management's forecasting $1 billion in annual run-rate synergies within the first three years," Cramer said. "At a time when oil's trending higher thanks to global supply disruptions, you absolutely want to own the largest refiner in America, and even after its recent run, Marathon's still incredibly cheap. It sells for just 10 times [next year's] earning [estimates]."
The biggest pure-play exploration and production company in the world, ConocoPhillips took second place on Cramer's power ranking. Shares of the company are up 34 percent for the year.
"I think it's a great proxy for the global oil and gas industry, as the company has a diversified portfolio of assets with a major emphasis on the United States, where fossil fuels are cheap and plentiful and you don't have a lot of political risk," Cramer said.
Moreover, ConocoPhillips' average cost of supply is roughly $35 a barrel, making the stock doubly attractive with the price of crude hovering around $71.
"The last time the company reported, management raised their full-year production capital spending guidance by half a billion dollars — that's obvious confidence," the "Mad Money" host said. "Look, while the stock has run, it's down nearly 10 percent in the past two weeks, trading at merely 13 times earnings. Conoco, right here, [is] a buy."
The second-largest refiner after Marathon, Valero placed third in the energy power ranking. Cramer admitted he preferred Marathon's stock to Valero's, but acknowledged that the oil refiners are currently in a "terrific environment."
"Basically, we don't have enough refining capacity worldwide, and because these things take ages to build — do you want a refinery in your backyard? — the refinery shortage could last until 2020 or longer," he said. "But, like the others here, Valero's sold off in recent months. It now sells for just 10 times earnings. I think it's a bargain."
Coming in fourth was EOG Resources, an independent oil and gas colossus and a pioneer in extraction by fracking, or using highly pressurized liquid to force open oil-rich rock formations.
Calling it an "unconventional" producer, Cramer highlighted its "terrific acreage in very low-cost parts of south Texas," where oil production has boomed in recent months.
"Thanks to last week's brutal sell-off, its growth oil stock is selling for 16 times earnings," Cramer said. "I know that sounds high, but this has got the best growth profile. I think it's absurd that its stock trades this cheap, especially when you consider that EOG's expected to grow at a 29 percent clip. That's like a tech company."
Fifth in line was Anadarko Petroleum, an exploration and production play owned by Cramer's charitable trust.
"In all honesty, Anadarko would've been my No. 1 pick here if not for one single thorny issue: the company owns 400,000 acres in the DJ Basin area of Colorado. The problem? On election day, Colorado's holding a referendum that would effectively ban new drilling in the state," Cramer said.
"I still like the stock enough to own it for my charitable trust, ... but the risk is real, so you might want to wait until after the election before picking some up," the "Mad Money" host added.
Geopolitical upheaval can often translate into gains for the major oil players, and when it comes to Cramer's power rankings, these juggernauts seem positioned to benefit from near-term turbulence.
"Here's the bottom line: the world is a mess and that's great for oil producers and refiners," Cramer said. "I like Marathon Pete, ConocoPhillips, Valero, EOG Resources and Anadarko — in that order."
Want more power plays? Get the rest of Cramer's power rankings here:
Disclosure: Cramer's charitable trust owns shares of Anadarko Petroleum.