Traders on floor of the New York Stock Exchange, June 27, 2008
Traders on floor of the New York Stock Exchange, June 27, 2008 - 
Listen To The Story


Scott Jagow: Exxon Mobil's report comes out this morning.
It will be as far away from a loss as you can get -- probably a record profit for a U.S. public company. And yes, it feels right and just to gripe about it with how much we're paying for gas. But consider this: energy stocks might be propping up your 401 k. Here's Nancy Marshall Genzer.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: Don't consider yourself an energy tycoon? Well, you might be a fat cat and not even know it. Mutual fund company Vanguard, for instance, has billions of dollars in ExxonMobil stock. Most of that is owned by investors in two Vanguard index funds.

Morningstar analyst Michael Herbst:

Michael Herbst: Millions of investors do own some of these stocks, and those investors are likely some of the same people who are cringing every time they go to the gas tank these days.

But here's the weird thing: Oil companies stocks have actually been going down. As oil prices skyrocketed, people started using more coal and natural gas. Those stocks have rallied. Herbst says don't buy individual oil stocks:

Herbst: Investors can actually lose a lot of money by making the wrong calls.

Herbst says smart fat cats stick with mutual funds that invest in the entire energy sector.

I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.