Much has been made over the last year about the incredible fall in the oil price. While there are dozens of theories out there about why the oil price will rebound, alongside counterarguments about why it will stay lower for longer, investors should focus on what shares will benefit from low prices.

Lower crude oil prices have direct flow-on effects in the Australian economy. So which ASX stocks are best placed to benefit from lower oil prices?

Caltex Australia Limited (ASX: CTX) is perhaps the most direct beneficiary of a lower oil price. Although Caltex closed one of its refineries in 2014, it still has another operational one in Queensland. Caltex earns refiner margins, which are the difference between imported crude oil (to make the fuel we put in our cars) and direct imports of fuel products. As the price of imported crude falls, refiner margins increase.

In addition, Caltex has flagged its intention to make more money from its retailing operations. Cheaper fuel generally means more car trips, more fuel consumed and more trips to the service station. If the retail mix is right, if follows that more products will be sold to those visiting.

Mantra Group Ltd (ASX: MTR) is another tangential beneficiary of the lower oil price. Lower fuel prices have been compared in their stimulatory effects to interest rate cuts from the Reserve Bank of Australia.

While an extra $20 – $50 per week in the family budget is unlikely to make getaways to London or New York substantially more affordable, it does allow families to save more readily for more local breaks. With over 125 locations across Australia and New Zealand, Mantra is well placed to capture additional domestic tourism spend. It also has a favourable exposure to inbound tourism spending from international destinations.

Harvey Norman Holdings Limited (ASX: HVN) is a somewhat unconventional exposure to a falling oil price. This is based on the same logic that a lower fuel bill is stimulatory to household spending. Harvey Norman is one of the best exposures on the ASX to increased household retail spending, and has largely exited deflationary categories like electronics to focus on whitegoods and furniture.

Foolish takeway

While there is no “perfect” exposure to a falling oil price, it helps to think of the second order effects of a falling oil price on the real economy and the businesses that operate in it. Mantra Group appears to have the most positives in its corner, followed by Caltex with the benefits of its refiner margins and retail exposure, while Harvey Norman remains a strong exposure to both lower oil prices and rising house prices.

The oil price is crashing, but a bigger sharemarket crash might be about to follow it...

Is a share-market crash coming? Get our analysts' exclusive inside take now, in The Motley Fool's newly updated report, "What to Do When the Sharemarket Crashes" -- including expert tips on how to protect YOUR portfolio. Click here for your FREE copy now.

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: Motley Fool’s #1 Dividend Pick for 2017!

With its shares up 155% in just the last five years, this ‘under the radar’ consumer favourite is both a hot growth stock AND our expert’s #1 dividend pick for 2017. Now we’re pulling back the curtain for you... And all you have to do to discover the name, code and a full analysis is enter your email below!

Simply enter your email now to receive your copy of our brand-new FREE report, “The Motley Fool’s Top Dividend Stock for 2017.”

By clicking this button, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. We will use your email address only to keep you informed about updates to our website and about other products and services we think might interest you. You can unsubscribe from Take Stock at anytime. Please refer to our https://www.fool.com.au/financial-services-guide">Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information.

Motley Fool contributor Ry Padarath has no position in any stocks mentioned. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.