Shipping Industry Bloomberg Update : Gloomiest Since 2009

 

The shipping industry is the most pessimistic in six years about its prospects as a fleet surplus persists, according to a survey by law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

Two thirds of respondents working in the industry said they were pessimistic about its prospects, the most negative outlook since 2009, the London-based company said in a statement. The biggest contributor to their negative view was excess fleet capacity.

While parts of the maritime industry such as the market for hauling oil are surging this year, others are slumping. Rates for delivering Saudi Arabian crude to Japan, a benchmark route, just had the highest first half of a year since at least 2009. The Baltic Dry Index, measuring coal and iron ore freight, had the worst first six months ever.

“Shipping is a notoriously speculative business,” Harry Theochari, the firm’s global head of transport, who has worked in the industry for more than 30 years, said by phone. “We have this huge overcapacity but a lot of shipowners are still going out and ordering ships.”

The survey collated responses from 94 people working across the maritime industry. More than half saw over-capacity as shipping’s biggest challenge, and continuing orders for newbuild vessels has led to increased pessimism, according to Theochari.

Tanker rates from Saudi Arabia to Japan averaged $63,476 this year, according to Baltic Exchange data. The Baltic Dry Index averaged 627 points, the lowest for the start of a year since it was first published three decades ago.

 

Jack A. Bass Managed Accounts hold no shipping stocks – and we are not trying to guess where the bottom might be. We are content to invest in sectors with better prospects and watch the shipping sector for a revival.

Iron Ore Tumbles on Supply Jump as Goldman, Citi Prove Accurate

Iron ore capped the biggest weekly loss since April as shipments surged and data showed the slowdown in China’s steel industry deepened, vindicating banks from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to Citigroup Inc. that had forecast declines.

Ore with 62 percent content delivered to Qingdao lost 0.7 percent to $55.26 a dry metric ton on Friday, falling for a seventh day, according to Metal Bulletin Ltd. Prices lost 11 percent this week to the lowest level since April. Producers’ shares sank, with Rio Tinto Group dropping to the lowest since 2009 in London and Anglo American Plc falling to a 12-year low.

Iron ore’s decline eroded gains seen in the second quarter, when prices rebounded from a decade-low as shipments missed expectations. The top suppliers, including Rio in Australia and Brazil’s Vale SA remain intent on increasing supply as they seek to boost volumes and reduce costs per ton, expanding a glut even as demand in China slows. Goldman and Citigroup said the gains in April and May wouldn’t last as low-cost production was set to increase further while demand growth slowed in China.

“The majors are continuing to push the tons,” Paul Gait, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in London, said after data showed record shipments in June through Port Hedland, the world’s largest bulk-export terminal. “Clearly, that’s bad for prices, there’s no way that could be interpreted positively.”

Exports from the port that handles cargoes from BHP Billiton Ltd. and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. jumped to a record 38.4 million tons last month, according to data on Thursday. Shipments from Brazil, the biggest exporter after Australia, surged to 32 million tons last month from 29.55 million a year earlier, the government said.

Largest Buyer

“We’ll still see prices dropping below $40,” Ivan Szpakowski, a commodities strategist at Citigroup in Hong Kong, said by phone on Friday. “Just like the weakness in exports were the main reason for the rally, now the recovery is likely to drive it lower.”

The purchasing managers’ index for China’s steel industry, which has contracted for more than a year, extended its decline in June to about a seven-year low of 37.4, government data compiled by Bloomberg showed. New orders slumped to 27.9 from 37.6 in May. A reading below 50 indicates contraction. China is the world’s largest buyer of seaborne iron ore.

Iron ore holdings at Chinese ports rose 2.8 percent this week to 81.6 million tons, the first increase since April, data from Shanghai Steelhome Information Technology Co. showed. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. said last month that the declining trend in inventories would soon reverse and lead to lower prices.

Australia Shipments

Shipments from Australia may surge 10 percent next year, more than twice the pace forecast for 2015, the government said on Tuesday. The outlook cited expansions by producers including Rio as well as supplies from billionaire Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill mine, which are set to commence this half.

The global surplus will expand to 151 million tons in 2018 from 34 million tons this year, according to UBS Group AG. Prices may tumble into the $30s in the second half as surging low-cost output swamps the market, Capital Economics Ltd. said.

Rio’s stock fell as much as 2.2 percent to 2,576 pence in London, while BHP was 1.9 percent lower, down 33 percent over the past 12 months. Anglo, which produces iron ore alongside materials from copper to diamonds, dropped as much as 2.7 percent to 893.20 pence, the lowest since April 2003.

In Sydney, Fortescue declined 4.7 percent to take this year’s drop to 34 percent.

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What Does The Turmoil in Greece Mean for Your Money : Update

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UPDATE No Vote Pulls Ahead

Cash within the Greek banking system will run out in just a few short days, a senior banking source has told me, amid fears that the financial crisis will force Greek companies to start laying off workers on Monday.

“This is a fully fledged banking and economic crisis,” said the despairing source. “The rate of cash withdrawals has trebled in recent days, even with the limits.”

Since I arrived in Athens, I have witnessed Greeks queuing at those cash machines that are working, to withdraw the maximum amount of cash they’re allowed under the restrictions implemented last Monday.

“People are taking out money around the clock, out of ATMs, on the internet transferring to HSBC – you name it, they’re finding ingenious ways to get their savings.”

He added: “We desperately need a solution. It will not be long before our country is on its knees, with the damage so great that it will be permanent.”

After the referendum polls close tonight, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will meet bank bosses, grouped together under the auspices of the Hellenic Bank Association, and the governor of the Bank of Greece, Yannis Stournaras, I have learned.

All options currently remain open. Greece could do what Cyprus did: default on some of its debts while staying in the euro. Tsipras could decide to accept the tax increases and the pension cuts demanded by the creditors while receiving only minor and vague concessions on debt relief. Greece could have run out of money and be out of the euro within 24 hours.

Some things though are clear.

Firstly, the Greeks have said no to austerity rather than to membership of the euro. Tsipras does not have a mandate to bring back the drachma, even if that is where this all ends.

Secondly, the referendum result means both economic and political chaos. As Joan Hoey of the Economist Intelligence Unit put it even before the vote: “Greece is angry and fearful; divided and conflicted.”

Inevitably, Greece faces a fresh period of acute economic pain. It will take months, if not years, to recover from the events of the past week, even if there is a speedy resolution to the crisis. The Greek economy has already shrunk by a quarter in the past five years.

Thirdly, it is no longer possible to kick the can down the road. Any solution to the Greek crisis that involves more austerity without measures designed to get the economy growing again and to make the country’s debt sustainable will be a pyrrhic victory. The upshot would be a period of feeble growth and mounting indebtedness that would bring the possibility of Grexit back on the agenda. Sooner rather than later, in all likelihood.

Fourthly, this is the most serious crisis in the euro’s relatively short history. There have been confident pronouncements that Greece has been quarantined so that there will be no knock-on effects on the rest of the eurozone. Such sentiments will be tested to the full if there is a Grexit. Share prices will inevitably take a tumble when the financial markets open for business, but more attention should be paid to the bond yields – or interest rates – on the sovereign debt of other eurozone members seen as vulnerable.

The short-term problem for Merkel and Hollande is obvious. If they take a tough line in talks with Athens, they will get the blame for Greece’s departure from the single currency.

The longer-term problem is perhaps even more serious. Greece has highlighted the structural weaknesses of the euro, a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t suit such a diverse set of countries. One solution would be to create a fiscal union to run alongside monetary union, with one eurozone finance minister deciding tax and spending decisions for all 19 nations. This, though, requires the sort of solidarity notable by its absence in recent weeks. The European project has stalled.

So, this story is not over. In Homer’s epic tale, it took Odysseus 10 years to return to his Ithaca home from the Trojan war, losing all his men along the way. Greece’s modern odyssey, similarly, is only half over. The next chapter begins on Monday).

Expect lower stock prices.

Faced with an apocalyptic unemployment rate of 28%, voters in Greece have drawn the line on austerity measures that have mired the country in a crisis rivaling that of the Great Depression. In the worst case, the move could lead to Greece’s exit from the European monetary union. In the best case, it will produce much-needed debt relief for the country’s ailing economy. But either way, it’s prudent to assume the turmoil will roil equity markets both here and abroad.

The issue came to a head earlier this week when Greece’s “radical left” Syriza party won a plurality of votes in the latest election. Led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, Syriza campaigned on a platform to ease the “humiliation and suffering” caused by austerity. This includes debt relief and rolling back steep spending cuts enacted by Greece’s former government in exchange for financing from the International Monetary Union and other members of the European Union.

To say Greece has paid dearly for these cuts would be an understatement. The consensus among mainstream economists is that austerity during a time of crisis exacerbates the underlying issues. We saw this in Germany after World War I when France and Great Britain demanded it pay colossal war reparations. We saw it throughout Latin America following the IMF’s structural adjustments of the 1980s and 1990s. And we’re seeing it now in Greece and Spain, where unemployment has reached levels not seen in the developed world since the Great Depression.

The problem for Greece is that Germany and other fiscally conservative European countries aren’t sympathetic to its predicament. They see Greece’s travails as its just deserts. They see a fiscally irresponsible country that exploited its membership in the continent’s monetary union in order to borrow cheaply and spend extravagantly. And they see an electorate that isn’t willing to accept the consequences of its government’s actions.

To a certain extent, Greece’s critics are right. Over the last decade, its debt has ballooned. In 2004, the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio was 97%. Today, it is 175%. This is the heaviest debt load of any European country relative to output.

It accordingly follows that the European Union stands once again at the precipice of fracturing. If the Syriza party sticks to its demands and Greece’s neighbors won’t agree to relief, then one of the few options left on the table will be for Greece to exit the monetary union and abandon the euro. Doing so would free the country to pursue its own fiscal and monetary policies. It would also almost inevitably trigger a period of sharp inflation in a reinstituted drachma.

This isn’t to say global investors should be petrified at the prospect of even the most extreme scenario — that of Greece abandoning the euro. In essence, the euro is nothing more than a currency peg that fossilized the exchange rates between the continent’s currencies in 2001. By going off it, Greece would essentially be following in the footsteps of the Swiss National Bank, which recently unpegged the Swiss franc from the euro after a drop in the latter’s value made maintaining the peg prohibitively expensive.

A more complicated question revolves around the fate of Greece’s sovereign debt. Seceding from the monetary union won’t eliminate its obligations to creditors. It likely also won’t change the fact that the country’s debt is denominated in euros. Thus, if Greece were to exit the euro and experience rapid inflation, the burden of its interest payments would get worse, not better. This would make the prospect of default increasingly attractive if not necessary in order to reignite economic growth.

But investors have shouldered sovereign debt repeatedly since the birth of international bond markets. Just last year, Standard & Poor’s declared that Argentina had defaulted after missing a $539 million payment on $13 billion in restructured bonds — restructured, that is, following the nation’s 2002 default. Yet stocks ended the year up by 11.5%. The same thing happened when Russia defaulted in 1998. Despite triggering the failure of Long Term Capital Management, a highly leveraged hedge fund that was ultimately rescued by a consortium of Wall Street banks, stocks soared by 26.7% that year.

Given all this, the biggest impact on investors, particularly in the United States, is likely to make its way through the currency markets. When fear envelopes the globe, investors flee to safety. And in the currency markets, safety is synonymous with the U.S. dollar. Over the last year, for instance, speculation about quantitative easing by the European Central Bank, coupled with the scourge of low oil prices on energy-dependent economies such as Russia and Mexico, has increased the strength of the dollar. This will only grow more pronounced if the U.S. Federal Reserve raises short-term interest rates later this year.

The net result is that American companies with significant international operations will struggle to grow their top and bottom lines. This is because a strong dollar makes American goods more expensive relative to competitors elsewhere. Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble PG 0.26% serves as a case in point. In the final three months of last year, P&G’s sales suffered a negative five percentage point impact from foreign exchange. As Chairman and CEO A.G. Lafley noted in Tuesday’s earnings release:

The October [to] December 2014 quarter was a challenging one with unprecedented currency devaluations. Virtually every currency in the world devalued versus the U.S. dollar, with the Russian Ruble leading the way. While we continue to make steady progress on the strategic transformation of the company — which focuses P&G on about a dozen core categories and 70 to 80 brands, on leading brand growth, on accelerating meaningful product innovation and increasing productivity savings — the considerable business portfolio, product innovation, and productivity progress was not enough to overcome foreign exchange.

With this in mind, it seems best to assume revenue and earnings at American companies will take a hit while Europe works toward a solution to Greece’s problems. In addition, as we’ve already started to see, the hit to earnings will be reflected in lower stock prices. There’s no way around this. But keep in mind that we’ve been through countless crises like this is in the past, and the stock market continues to reward long-term investors for their patience and perseverance.

More Limbo

“Irrespective of the referendum outcome, it is unlikely that there is an immediate resolution to the crisis the next day,” Marco Stringa, an economist at Deutsche Bank AG in London, wrote in a research note before the polls closed. “A ‘yes’ vote would be significantly more likely to lead to a quicker agreement with the creditors, but not without risks. Ultimately, the economic emergency will remain a key catalyst.”

A “yes” could force the end of the Tsipras government and fresh elections, a possibility to which Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis alluded on Thursday. A result so close that it’s inconclusive may only extend the current stalemate, which began when Tsipras called the surprise plebiscite on June 27.

Some Greeks are despairing of their country’s situation.

“This vote is a test of our collective IQ,” said Hara Nikolou, a retired biochemist who lives on the island of Serifos, before casting her “yes” vote. “If our society opts to turn this country into Balkan wasteland, I don’t want to continue living here.”

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Trading Alert : Peabody Energy ( BTU)

A positive Supreme Court ruling mere days ago has done nothing to halt the precipitous decline of Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU)’s shares, which are imploding  in trading this morning, down by nearly 26% already.

The sad spectacle has inflated the loss of the company’s shares year-to-date to an ugly 79%. The latest major blow comes after Peabody Energy Corporation (NYSE:BTU) was forced to downgrade its loss estimate for its current fiscal quarter, the results of which it will post on July 28. Among other things, lower coal prices and bad weather have been cited as reasons for the revision, while demand is also weakening in China. The latest blow is bad news for Dmitry Balyasny‘s Balyasny Asset Management, which opened a 27.31 million-share stake in the first quarter, worth $134.34 million at the end of March, doubtlessly feeling he was getting a discount at the time, with shares already down heavily in the first quarter. They’ve done even worse in the second.
Read more at http://www.insidermonkey.com/blog/active-morning-movers-peabody-energy-corporation-btu-the-chubb-corporation-cb-ace-limited-ace-fitbit-inc-fit-358238/#4G1QcBikzuSWS1Hf.99

TheStreet Ratings team rates PEABODY ENERGY CORP as a Sell with a ratings score of D. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

“We rate PEABODY ENERGY CORP (BTU) a SELL. This is driven by several weaknesses, which we believe should have a greater impact than any strengths, and could make it more difficult for investors to achieve positive results compared to most of the stocks we cover. The company’s weaknesses can be seen in multiple areas, such as its deteriorating net income, generally high debt management risk, disappointing return on equity, poor profit margins and weak operating cash flow.”

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The company, on the basis of change in net income from the same quarter one year ago, has significantly underperformed when compared to that of the S&P 500 and the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry. The net income has significantly decreased by 264.1% when compared to the same quarter one year ago, falling from -$48.50 million to -$176.60 million.
  • The debt-to-equity ratio is very high at 2.55 and currently higher than the industry average, implying increased risk associated with the management of debt levels within the company. To add to this, BTU has a quick ratio of 0.61, this demonstrates the lack of ability of the company to cover short-term liquidity needs.
  • Return on equity has greatly decreased when compared to its ROE from the same quarter one year prior. This is a signal of major weakness within the corporation. Compared to other companies in the Oil, Gas & Consumable Fuels industry and the overall market, PEABODY ENERGY CORP’s return on equity significantly trails that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • The gross profit margin for PEABODY ENERGY CORP is currently extremely low, coming in at 14.06%. It has decreased from the same quarter the previous year. Along with this, the net profit margin of -11.48% is significantly below that of the industry average.
  • Net operating cash flow has significantly decreased to $3.40 million or 93.71% when compared to the same quarter last year. In addition, when comparing the cash generation rate to the industry average, the firm’s growth is significantly lower.

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On Deck Lending Grows Cold

Lending Club and On Deck have seen their shares plunge from their highs following closely watched initial public offerings.

Alternative online lending marketplaces Lending Club and On Deck Capital are taking a beating on Wall Street this summer, with both companies’ shares plummeting below the opening prices of their respective initial public offerings.

Lending Club LC -0.95% , which debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in December, has seen its stock fall 50% from a high of $29 per share shortly after thecompany went public. Lending Club’s stock, which is now trading at $14.56, is below its original price of $15 per share.

On Deck ONDK -2.42% has also been getting hit by investors after its December IPO. The company’s shares are now trading at $11.60, 42% lower than the company’s initial offering price of $20.

Lending Club was one of the pioneers in peer to peer lending by creating a marketplace that connect borrowers and lenders. Founded in 2006, the company took traditional banks out of the equation to connect investors directly with those in need of a loan like small business owners who may not have qualified for a loan from a traditional bank and individuals looking to consolidate their debt. After clearing a few hurdles with federal regulators, Lending Club started gaining traction while raising massive amounts of cash from investors like Google Capital and Kleiner Perkins.

While On Deck also challenges traditional banks, the company differs from Lending Club in that it lends its own money to small businesses. From 2007, On Deck has lent more than $2 billion to hair salons, pizza parlors, and convenience stores.

Michael Tarkan, an analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading, is not optimistic about the prospects for both companies. He’s set a $14 price target for Lending Club’s shares and a $12 target for On Deck, and believes the stocks may sink lower. Why?

“The stocks are too expensive relative to underlying risk,” he said in an interview.

Tarkan further explained that Wall Street has realized that the stock price was overvalued considering the competitive and regulatory risks in the alternative lending space. He cited an increased amount of fast-growing competitors including Marlette and Prosper. Other startups that have raised money in the lending space include CAN Capital, LendUp, and Bond Street.

Traditional banks are starting to see opportunity in online lending as well. Goldman Sachs will soon let consumers apply for and receive small loans online, according to theNew York Times.

Both Lending Club and On Deck have been lauded by Silicon Valley as disrupting traditional banks by opening up the floodgates for underserved customers to credit. Lending Club and On Deck make money primarily by taking a cut of interest rates from loans.

Renaud Laplanche, founder and CEO of Lending Club, acknowledged the declining value of his company’s stock, but maintained that some of gyrations are from a flood of shares into the market following end of an investor lock up period. The company also issued disappointing revenue guidance following earnings in the second quarter, which was later raised.

As for the increased competition, Laplanche points to the company’s second quarter revenue more than doubling to $81 million compared with the same period a year earlier. And with this growth, the cost the company was incurring to acquire customers has gone down over the past year, he added.

On Deck’s revenue has also grown year over year. The company doubled revenue to $56.46 million in the second quarter of 2015, but posted a net loss of $5 million for the quarter.

While there hasn’t been any renewed regulatory problems like Lending Club faced five years ago, Tarkan says that it’s still early days from a regulatory perspective.

LaPlanche says Lending Club has worked well with regulators thus far, and he’s optimistic that regulators will continue to see the marketplace as a positive financial platform.

OnDeck declined to comment on the company’s stock performance for this article.

Trading Alert : Leon Black’s Sell-Everything Call

Depression - an idea whose time has come back!

 

When financier Leon Black said his Apollo Global Management LLC was exiting “everything that’s not nailed down” amid rising valuations, he made headlines. Two years later, other private-equity firms are following suit — dumping stakes into the markets at a record clip.

Firms including Blackstone Group LP and TPG Capital Management have been capitalizing on record stock markets around the world to sell shares, mostly in their companies that have already gone public. Globally, buyout firms conducted 97 stock offerings in the second quarter, more than in any other three-month period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Since Black made his comments in April 2013, the MSCI World Index has gained 18 percent, stretching valuations even higher. Headwinds that threaten to rattle global equities are everywhere — from the Greek and Puerto Rican debt crises to an eventual increase in U.S. interest rates.

“It’s clear that we are currently in an environment of frothy valuations,” said Lise Buyer, founder of IPO advisory firm Class V Group. “The insiders — those with the most knowledge — are finding this a very good time to take some money off the table.”

This year, private-equity firms sold $73 billion of their buyouts to the public, a record amount over a six month period, Bloomberg data show.

Hilton Deal

The biggest such deal this year came in May when Blackstone sold 90 million shares, or $2.69 billion worth, of hotel-chain Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. in a secondary offering. Blackstone took the company private in 2007 for $26 billion and did an IPO in December 2013, raising $2.7 billion. After the latest sale, Blackstone’s stake in Hilton fell to 46 percent from 82 percent before the IPO, Bloomberg data show.

The largest European exit so far this year was the $2.46 billion IPO of online car dealership Auto Trader Group Plc in London, where Apax Partners sold shares. In Asia, private-equity firm China Aerospace Investment Holdings Ltd. sold 2.3 million shares in a $2.12 billion IPO of China National Nuclear Power Co.

While the firms have been trimming their stakes in public companies, they’re doing fewer initial offerings in the U.S. PE-backed IPOs have had the slowest start to the year since 2010, selling $8.2 billion in stock.

The reason: Many of the larger companies that were swooped up during the buyout boom that ended in 2007 have already gone public. Today’s selling is largely private-equity owners getting out of those assets.

Fundraising Spree

“It’s been a lot more about harvesting public positions than creating new ones through IPOs,” said Cully Davis, co-head of equity capital markets for the Americas at Credit Suisse Group AG. “The markets are open and the financial sponsors are pretty astute about timing their exits.”

Buyout firms were also motivated to exit older positions as they seek investments for new funds, said Klaus Hessberger, co-head of equity capital markets for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at JPMorgan Chase & Co. The funds raised $438 billion last year, a post-crisis record, according to an April report by research firm Triago.

Selling to companies or other buyout shops was still the more popular way for private-equity firms to unload assets over the quarter. They sold $57 billion of assets in 284 sales in the second quarter, compared with $39 billion for stock sales, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In an echo of Leon Black, Frank Maturo, vice chairman of equity capital markets at UBS AG, said, “Private equity is selling everything that’s not bolted down. With the robust valuations in today’s market, they are accelerating monetizations of companies they own.”

No Rapid Rebound for Oil Prices ( MorningStar Energy Forecast )

Energy: No Rapid Rebound for Oil Prices

The rapid decline in oil prices has created significant investment opportunities, but downside risk remains in the short term.
  • The United States has rapidly become the critical source of incremental supply for global oil markets, and growth has come overwhelmingly from unconventional drilling. The large increases in U.S. output did not upset global supply/demand balances over the past few years, largely because significant amounts of supply were disrupted by political/security issues (Libya and Iran, for example). But in 2014 the scales finally tipped: Combined with weakening demand and OPEC’s decision not to reduce its own production, major supply imbalances resulted that, as of today, have yet to dissipate.
  • In the current market environment of high costs and low oil prices, upstream firms face extremely challenged economics where new investment is not value-creative. Such conditions are not sustainable over the long term, however, and we expect the combination of rising oil prices and falling costs to provide significant relief in the coming years.
  • Despite our belief that tight oil has considerable running room from here, it can’t completely meet future global demand. The marginal barrel, therefore, will come from higher up the global cost curve. Our forecasts show that higher-quality deep-water projects will be the highest-cost source of supply needed during the rest of the decade. As a result of this meaningful move down the cost curve, our midcycle oil price forecast for Brent is $75 per barrel (WTI: $69/bbl), meaningfully below 2014 highs.
  • Although U.S. gas production is likely to slow in the near term as oil-directed drilling hits the brakes, the wealth of low-cost inventory in areas like the Marcellus points to continued growth through the end of this decade and beyond. Abundant supply is holding current prices low, but in the long run we anticipate relief from incremental demand from LNG exports as well as industry. Our midcycle U.S. natural gas price estimate is $4/mcf.

Given both its remaining growth potential and ability to scale up and down activity quickly, tight oil has effectively made the United States the world’s newest swing producer. Drastic spending cuts will lead to a meaningful decline in near-term production, but the strong economics of the major U.S. liquids plays means production will begin growing again as soon as oil prices recover.

David Meats is an equity analyst for Morningstar.

Based on our belief that U.S. unconventionals will continue to be able to meet 35%-40% of incremental new supply requirements in the coming years, we believe that additional volumes from high-cost resources such as oil sands mining and marginal deep-water will not be needed for the foreseeable future. This disruptive force that already has upended global crude markets isn’t going away anytime soon. U.S. shale once again is proving truly to be a game changer.

Meanwhile, demand tailwinds from exports and industrial consumption will help balance the domestic gas market eventually, but ongoing cost pressures from efficiency gains and excess services capacity–as well as the crowding out of higher-cost production by world-class resources such as the Marcellus Shale and associated volumes from oil-rich areas such as the Eagle Ford and Permian–are weighing on near-term prices. Even under these circumstances, however, undervalued, cost-advantaged investment opportunities remain.

Top Energy Sector Picks
Star Rating
Fair Value
Estimate
Economic
Moat
Fair Value
Uncertainty
Consider
Buying
Encana
$16
Narrow
Very High $8
ExxonMobil
$98
Wide
Low $78.40
Cabot Oil & Gas
$43
Narrow
High $25.80
Data as of June 22, 2015

Encana (ECA)
Encana is our top pick within the U.S. oil-focused exploration and production group. The company’s growth is underpinned by high-quality Permian and Eagle Ford acreage. The company has transformed dramatically in the past 12 months, with two major acquisitions and a string of divestitures and is emerging leaner and meaner. The company now has a footprint in several top-quality oil plays in the United States and Canada.

ExxonMobil (XOM)
We view ExxonMobil as offering the best combination of value, quality, and defensiveness. Exxon will see its portfolio mix shift to liquids pricing as gas volumes decline and as new oil and liquefied natural gas projects start production. The company historically set itself apart from the other majors as a superior capital allocator and operator, delivering higher returns on capital than its peers as a result.

Cabot Oil & Gas (COG)
On the gas side, Cabot controls more than a decade of highly productive, low-cost drilling inventory targeting the dry gas Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. Fully loaded cash break-even costs are less than $2.50 per mcf.

ADD UPDATE at close of market:

Each week we look at the level of crude oil located in U.S. storage tanks around the country, which offers a glimpse into the inner workings of production and consumption levels. After peaking earlier this spring, U.S. crude inventories have undergone successive weeks of drawdowns, indicating slowing production and higher demand from consumers. In Europe, however, the story is different. Crude storage is reaching a multi-year high at the trading hub of Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp, known as ARA. In fact, storage levels have spiked since the beginning of the year to 60.6 million barrels in June. European storage is growing so rapidly because a lot of oil coming from Africa is having trouble finding interested buyers, forcing it into storage.

Growing storage levels in the U.S. pushed down oil prices earlier this year, and the same could hold true for European storage. That points to a persistent glut in global oil markets, with production exceeding demand by around 2 million barrels per day according to IEA estimates. Even if some of that supply can get soaked up by extra demand, there is a lot of oil sitting idle in tanks right now. That means oil prices likely won’t jump in the near term because the markets will need to work through the excess sitting in storage first.

While inventories are drawing down in the U.S., a group of companies are proposingincreased storage along the U.S. Gulf Coast. Magellan Midstream Partners and LBC Tank Terminals are proposing a $95 million oil storage facility near Houston. The facility would be able to hold around 700,000 barrels of crude and would be connected to existing distribution infrastructure. If it moves forward, the site could be completed by 2017. Magellan’s project would greatly expand storage along the Gulf Coast, helping refiners access and store product.

In another major construction project along the Gulf Coast, Cheniere Energy (NYSE: LNG) announced that it would take on $5.8 billion in new debt to build a fifth LNG train at its Sabine Pass facility in Louisiana. Lining up financing is a crucial step before construction can begin. Cheniere hopes to further expand by building a sixth LNG train, but has not secured financing for that yet. The company expects to liquefy and ship its first load of LNG later this year when its first train finishes construction, kicking off a new era in which the U.S. becomes a natural gas exporter.