Carlyle Group CEO: Oil is best investment right now

Why the U.S. will survive the oil crash
Why the U.S. will survive the oil crash

Several big investors think the best deals right now can be found in the energy field.

"We're very bullish on the energy sector. In fact, we'd say probably there is no other sector in the world that we are as bullish on as we are on energy," said David Rubenstein, the co-founder and co-CEO of private equity firm The Carlyle Group (CG), on CNBC Monday.

Oil prices have tumbled from over $100 a barrel in the summer to under $50 now. Many big oil companies have slashed spending and laid off workers in response to the rapid fall in prices.

"There will be attractive opportunities to buy now. We do think prices will come back a bit," Rubenstein said.

The Carlyle Group is one of the largest private equity firms in the world. It has about $9 billion to invest in energy assets, including $2.5 billion in a fund dedicated to oil and gas investments outside the U.S.

Related: The 'smart money' is investing in oil now

Other private equity powerhouses are doing the same thing. Blackstone Group (BX) has a $4.5 billion fund and Warburg Pincus has a $4 billion fund targeting energy opportunities.

"Private equity companies are uniquely positioned to capitalize on this. Not only do they have the deep pockets, but they can also take a long-term approach," said Tamar Essner, an energy analyst at Nasdaq Advisory Services.

The question is whether mom and pop investors should follow private equity's lead.

Private equity tends to have a very long time horizon -- their funds often lock up money for several years or even a decade. They are able to buy assets like oil fields or do deals or loans with energy companies in distress.

Related: Iran nuclear deal could make oil even cheaper

The Carlyle Group's enthusiasm about energy is telling given that the firm took a substantial hit to profits at the end of 2014 due to the sharp decline in oil and energy assets.

In the stock market, companies like Exxon Mobil (XOM) and ConocoPhillips (COP) have tumbled 20% or more since the summer alongside oil's big plunge. But famed investor Warren Buffett actually cut his holdings of these two companies at the end of last year, leaving some investors to question whether buying them even at depressed levels is a wise bet.

Related: Warren Buffett ditched Big Oil. Dumb move?

Expert stock pickers continue to advise clients to look for bargains, but to choose wisely. BlackRock (BLK), for example, recently said "super major" oil companies are a good bet due to their strong balance sheets, high dividends and diversified business models.

For now, there is little sign that oil prices will rebound substantially soon.

The consensus view is that prices fell mainly because of a huge oversupply of oil on the world market. Now that the United States has returned as a major energy producer and the Middle East isn't cutting back, the world has a lot of oil for sale.

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