What can I say except to report the facts as they are. Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO), one of my top picks of 2007, is my worst of 2008 -- so far! The refiners have taken a big hit this year as the Department of Energy has reported that gasoline inventories are up at the same time that oil prices have only come down marginally.
This is putting the squeeze on oil refiners like Valero, which are not able to increase margins on slackening demand at the pump. Last year, Valero made me look great all year long, rising 36%, and this year I stuck with it: Chasing Value: Valero Energy (VLO) is just so refined.
If the economy continues to look gloomy and the inventory trend continues, with supplies remaining more than ample, then perhaps my best pick will turn into my worst.
In the meantime, we are only 10 days into the new year, and January has been dismal. The market was up and down yesterday, finally ending higher, as fickle as I have seen it in a while, and it is up notably again today. Valero closed yesterday at $61.67, about $8 off my start point. It is up today even after the inventory report has been broadcast, so I think fickle is the word of the day, or even the week.
DISCLOSURE: I own shares of VLO.
Sheldon Liber is the CEO of a small private investment company and the design and research principal for an architecture & planning firm.