Is now the time to sell your oil and gas shares?

The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil leapt from around the US$46 mark at the start of last week to finish on Friday closer to US$48.

While oil remains well below its 52-week highs of US$71 a barrel, the commodity is also up around 80% from its low near US$27 a barrel.

Similarly, shares in leading ASX-listed energy producers have also fallen and then rallied.

Woodside Petroleum Limited’s (ASX: WPL) share price is currently trading near $27 which is well down from its one-year high of $37 but is 12% above its one-year low.

Oil Search Limited’s (ASX: OSH) share price is currently trading at $6.70 which is down from its 12-month high of $8.36, but is 20% above its 12-month low.

Santos Ltd’s (ASX: STO) share price is currently trading at around $4 which is well down from its 52-week high of $7.59 but is over 60% above its 52-week low.

For investors who managed to pick the bottom of the market the subsequent rally could certainly feel like a reason to take some profits.

So should investors stick around in the hope of higher prices or is it time to cut-and-run?

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) the oil market rebalancing is continuing and is heading towards an equilibrium.

There are many signs that this is occurring including bankruptcies of US-based high cost energy producers, declines in drilling rig numbers (both in the USA and globally) and a run down in US oil reserves.

This could all bode well for the oil price maintaining a price around $50 a barrel. Whether the oil price can go much higher in the near term however is debatable.

Investors sitting on quick profits might be best off choosing to be slow to sell, as while there could be near term risk to the downside, there would also appear to be a reasonable case for suggesting that the market has bottomed.

Meanwhile, for investors who have a much higher entry price into energy stocks, there is a real concern that they could be waiting a long time if they hang on for a return to their break even points.

In these circumstances an investment decision shouldn’t be made based on waiting for a stock to return to your purchase price, but rather based on your assessment of fundamental value and your opportunity cost.

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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur has no position in any stocks mentioned. 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.

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