This soaring ASX 200 oil stock is near all-time highs. Is it too late to buy?

The ASX 200 oil stock has surged 14% in six months, atop paying a record final dividend.

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Most S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) oil stocks have lost ground over the past six months.

But not Ampol Ltd (ASX: ALD).

Despite retracing slightly from the 28 February record closing high, the Ampol share price is up an impressive 14% since 15 September. That's almost three times the 5% gains posted by the ASX 200 over this same period.

As you're likely aware, Ampol supplies Australia's largest branded petrol and convenience network. The company also refines, imports and markets fuels and lubricants.

So, what's sending this ASX 200 oil stock to new highs?

And has the window of opportunity closed, or is there still time to buy?

Why did the Ampol share price hit record highs?

Investors have been bidding up the Ampol share price over the past 12 months as the company continues to increase its earnings and sales volumes.

For its full 2023 results, released on 19 February, the ASX 200 oil stock reported a 2% year on year increase in earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) – excluding significant items – which reached $1.30 billion.

And the company's total sales volumes leapt 17% from 2022 to an all-time high of 28.4 billion litres.

Also hitting new record highs, and pleasing passive income investors, was Ampol's final fully franked dividend of $1.80 a share. That was up 16% from the $1.55 a share final dividend for 2022, which was itself a new record high at the time.

The ASX oil stock also paid an interim dividend of 95 cents per share for a full-year payout of $2.75 a share.

At the current share price of $38.36, Ampol stock trades on a fully franked trailing yield of 7.2%.

Is it too late to buy the ASX 200 oil stock?

The Ampol share price has slipped 2.7% since hitting the all-time closing high of $39.42 on 28 February.

But I don't see any reason why it can't reset that record high, and then some, in the months ahead.

With solid earnings and sales growth, and ongoing growth in dividends, there's a lot to like about this ASX 200 oil stock.

And with Australia's population growing rapidly amid surging migration levels, the domestic demand growth picture looks good.

If the Aussie economy can avoid a recession amid higher interest rates to tamp down inflation, I believe Ampol can deliver more earnings growth ahead.

And if we do dip into a recession, much of the company's revenue is derived from fuel sales. While fuel demand would likely dip in a recession, most Aussies will still need petrol or diesel to get around.

And for those who've made the transition to electric vehicles, Ampol is also continuing to extend its EV charging network.

The evolving ASX oil stock forecasts it will have 300 charging bays in Australia and 150 charging bays in New Zealand by the end of 2024.

Motley Fool contributor Bernd Struben has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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