Trading Alert : Oil Sector Is Not Yet At The Bottom

 

“This is the beginning, not the end, of the write-down process,” Paul Sankey, an energy analyst at Wolfe Research LLC, said on Bloomberg TV on Friday. “The biggest concern is that we’ll see weaker demand over the second half of the year.”

Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp., the biggest U.S. energy producers, hunkered down for a prolonged stretch of weak prices after posting their worst quarterly performances in several years.

Exxon reported its lowest profit since 2009 as crude prices fell twice as fast as the world’s largest crude producer by market value could slash expenses. Chevron recorded its lowest profit in more than 12 years after the market rout forced $2.6 billion in asset writedowns and related charges.

Stung by the worst market collapse since the financial crisis of 2008, oil explorers are slashing jobs, scaling back drilling, canceling rig contracts and reducing or halting share buybacks to conserve cash. Chevron said the slump convinced it to lower its long-term outlook for crude prices.

“This is the beginning, not the end, of the write-down process,” Paul Sankey, an energy analyst at Wolfe Research LLC, said on Bloomberg TV on Friday. “The biggest concern is that we’ll see weaker demand over the second half of the year.”

Exxon cut share repurchases for the current quarter in half to $500 million after net income fell to $4.19 billion, or $1 a share, from $8.78 billion, or $2.05, a year earlier, the Irving, Texas-based company said in a statement on Friday. The per-share result was 11 cents lower than the average estimate of 20 analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

For Exxon, refinery profits fattened by lower costs for crude were more than offset by weaker results in the company’s primary business, oil and natural gas production, Exxon said. The company’s U.S. wells posted a $47 million loss.

Spending Cuts

Exxon reduced spending on major projects like floating crude platforms and gas-export terminals by 20 percent to $6.746 billion during the quarter, according to the statement. International crude prices fell 42 percent from the previous year to an average of $63.50 a barrel.

Chevron’s profit dropped to $571 million, or 30 cents a share, from $5.67 billion, or $2.98, a year earlier, the San Ramon, California-based company said in a statement. The per-share result was well below the $1.16 average estimate.

Chevron’s biggest business unit — oil and gas production – – posted a loss as the second-largest U.S. energy company recorded a $1.96 billion writedown on assets and another $670 million charge for taxes and projects suspended because they no longer make economic sense.

“The write-downs will get worse into the end of the year as companies complete their end-of-the-year SEC filings,” Sankey said. “The market still looks very over-supplied with oil and we’re in peak demand season globally.”

Pessimistic Outlook

Exxon Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson was among the first oil-industry bosses to shrink spending as the crude rout began taking shape more than a year ago. After cutting the budget by 9.3 percent in 2014, this year’s reduction may exceed the original 12 percent target, the company disclosed during an April 30 conference call with analysts.

Tillerson, an Exxon lifer whose 10th year as CEO began in January, has been pessimistic about the prospects for an imminent oil-market rebound. On April 21, he told a Houston energy conference that the supply glut and low prices will persist “for the next couple of years” at least.

Those remarks proved prophetic: international crude prices that rose 45 percent between Jan. 13 and May 6 have since tumbled 21 percent, inaugurating the second oil bear market in 14 months.

“Chevron was a disaster; Exxon was a disappointment,” Fadel Gheit, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. In New York who rates the shares of both the equivalent of a hold and owns each. “A rising tide lifts all ships, but when the tide goes down, all ships go down.”

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Morgan Stanley Oil Warning: The Crash / Glut Continues

Morgan Stanley has been pretty pessimistic about oil prices in 2015,

drawing comparisons to the some of the worst oil slumps of the past three decades. The current downturn could even rival the iconic price crash of 1986, analysts had warned—but definitely no worse.

This week, a revision: It could be much worse

Until recently, confidence in a strong recovery for oil prices—and oil companies—had been pretty high, wrote analysts including Martijn Rats and Haythem Rashed, in a report to investors yesterday. That confidence was based on four premises, they said, and only three have proven true.

1. Demand will rise: Check 

In theory: The crash in prices that started a year ago should stimulate demand. Cheap oil means cheaper manufacturing, cheaper shipping, more summer road trips.

In practice: Despite a softening Chinese economy, global demand has indeed surged by about 1.6 million barrels a day over last year’s average, according to the report.

2. Spending on new oil will fall: Check 

In theory: Lower oil prices should force energy companies to cut spending on new oil supplies, and the cost of drilling and pumping should decline.

In practice: Sure enough, since October the number of rigs actively drilling for new oil around the world has declined by about 42 percent. More than 70,000 oil workers have lost their jobs globally, and in 2015 alone listed oil companies have cut about $129 billion in capital expenditures.

3. Stock prices remain low: Check 

In theory: While oil markets rebalance themselves, stock prices of oil companies should remain cheap, setting the stage for a strong rebound.

In practice: Yep. The oil majors are trading near 35-year lows, using two different methods of valuation.

4. Oil supply will drop: Uh-oh 

In theory: With strong demand for oil and less money for drilling and exploration, the global oil glut should diminish. Let the recovery commence.

In practice: The opposite has happened. While U.S. production has leveled off since June, OPEC has taken up the role of market spoiler.

OPEC Production Surges in 2015

Source: Morgan Stanley Research, Bloomberg

For now, Morgan Stanley is sticking with its original thesis that prices will improve, largely because OPEC doesn’t have much more spare capacity to fill and because oil stocks have already been hammered.

But another possibility is that the supply of new oil coming from outside the U.S. may continue to increase as sanctions against Iran dissolve and if the situation in Libya improves, the Morgan Stanley analysts said. U.S. production could also rise again. A recovery is less certain than it once was, and the slump could last for three years or more—”far worse than in 1986.”

“In that case,” they wrote, “there would be little in history that could be a guide” for what’s to come.

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Barron’s Energy Review : A Whole Lot of Shorting Going On

Chesapeake Energy: A Whole Lot of Shorting Going On

Sterne Agee CRT’s Tim Rezvan is feeling bullish about Chesapeake Energy (CHK), which he upgraded on June 29. One of the reasons: The latest short interest data. He explains:

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Largest Increases in Short Interest Among Coverage Names:PetroQuest Energy (PQ), Cheasapeake, Noble Energy(NBL). The largest increase in short interest came from PetroQuest Energy, which had a 16.1% increase to 7.2 million shares (11.0% of shares outstanding, 5.0 days to cover). Other large increases were seen in Chesapeake Energy, which had a 14.1% increase to 185 million shares (27.8% of shares outstanding, 8.1 days to cover), and Noble Energy, which had a 10.3% increase to 17.9 million shares (4.6% of shares outstanding, 4.1 days to cover).

June 30 Data Likely Represents Peak of Bear Case Fervor for Chesapeake Shares. Our June 29 upgrade of Chesapeake shares to Buy from Underperform reflected what we believed was oversold conditions, and month-end short interest data validates this thesis. Short interest in Chesapeake shares increased 14% to 185 million shares from mid-June to the end of June (+163% from the end of February). We expect profit-taking from shorts to provide further support to Chesapeake shares into 2Q earnings

Here’s a chart of the short interest in Chesapeake, which as the analysts note is just massive:

Shares of Chesapeake Energy have tumbled 3.4% to $10.98 at 9:57 a.m. today, while Noble Energy has fallen 0.3% to $38.94, and Petroquest Energy has gained 1.7% to $1.75.

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Saudi Arabia Opens Production Taps

Saudi Arabia told OPEC it raised oil production to a record as the organization forecast stronger demand for its members’ crude in 2016.

The world’s biggest oil exporter pumped 10.564 million barrels a day in June, exceeding a previous record set in 1980, according to data the kingdom submitted to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The group sees “a more balanced market” in 2016 as demand for its crude strengths and supply elsewhere falters.

Source: Bloomberg

OPEC said it expects expanding oil consumption to outpace diminished output growth from rival producers such as U.S. shale drillers, whittling away a supply glut. The strategy is taking time to have an impact, with crude prices remaining 46 percent below year-ago levels and annual U.S. production forecast to reach a 45-year high.

“Saudi Arabia is still pursuing a market-share strategy,” Torbjoern Kjus, an analyst at DNB ASA in Oslo, said by phone. “They need more oil domestically for air conditioning in the summer, so they could choose to either produce more or reduce exports. Clearly they choose to produce more.”

Brent crude futures fell 1.7 percent to $57.70 a barrel at 1:24 p.m. local time on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange, extending a 2.6 percent loss last week.

Market Balancing

“Momentum in the global economy, especially in the emerging markets, would contribute further to oil demand growth in the coming year,” OPEC’s Vienna-based research department said Monday in its monthly market report.

Demand for the group’s crude will climb in 2016 by 900,000 barrels a day to average 30.1 million a day, according to the report. That’s still about 1.2 million less than the group estimated it pumped in June.

Even though the market will theoretically be more balanced next year, “you still have to deal with the legacy of oversupply in 2014 to 2015,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas SA in London. Global markets remain “massively oversupplied,” the International Energy Agency said on July 13.

Three-Year Peak

OPEC’s 12 members raised production by 283,200 barrels a day to a three-year high of 31.378 million a day last month, according to external estimates of output cited by the report. This data included a lower figure for Saudi production of 10.235 million barrels a day.

There was no total available for data submitted directly by OPEC members, because of omissions by Algeria, Libya and Venezuela.

Global oil demand will accelerate next year, to 1.34 million barrels a day, compared with 1.28 million in 2015, led by rising consumption in emerging economies, according to the report. Supply growth outside OPEC will slow to 300,000 barrels a day in 2016 from 860,000 a day this year with the gain concentrated in the U.S.

The International Energy Agency estimated demand would grow more slowly next year, with consumption expanding by 1.2 million barrels a day compared with 1.4 million in 2015, according to its monthly report July 10. The Paris-based adviser forecast no growth in non-OPEC supply next year.

World oil demand will average 93.9 million barrels a day in 2016, while non-OPEC supply will total 57.7 million barrels a day, according to the OPEC report.

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Energy Investors Cling To False Hopes : The Lost Decade

It has been a very challenging time for investors in the energy space, but we find their resiliency impressive, considering they have endured a decade of little to no returns.

Oil companies say there will be a price to pay — a much higher price — for all the cost cutting being done today to cope with the collapse in the crude market.

Investors haven’t made any money over the past decade with the S&P TSX Capped Energy Index gaining a paltry 0.3 per cent annually while the Canadian dollar-adjusted West Texas Intermediate oil price is up only 0.7 per cent per year. This compares to the S&P TSX Index that has gained just over seven per cent per year over the same period.

Even though it remained fairly flat over the past 10 years, the energy index has experienced tremendous volatility with an average standard deviation of 30 per cent, more than double the TSX’s 14 per cent.

It is doubtful that many investors rode out the entire period, instead we think they pulled the ripcord during some of the periods of excess volatility. It’s even worse for those who purchased at its recent peak in mid-2014.

Which is why we find it rather amazing that investors plowed a whopping $5.5 billion into the Canadian exploration and production sector through bought-deal equity financings in the first quarter, and an additional $1.4 billion raised so far this quarter.

Which is why we find it rather amazing that investors plowed a whopping $5.5 billion into the Canadian exploration and production sector through bought-deal equity financings in the first quarter, and an additional $1.4 billion raised so far this quarter.

FP0623_TotalReturns_C_JR

Looking Ahead

With regards to oil prices, we think there could more downside than upside on the horizon especially in this environment of a prolonged global supply-demand imbalance.

On the positive side, global oil demand has been improving and is up 1.2 per cent from last May. However, this may not be enough as global supply has exceeded demand for the past five quarters and could soon see the longest glut since 1985, according to financial news provider Bloomberg.

Not helping matters is OPEC production growth as the group aims to protect its market share against North American producers that have yet to curtail output despite the oil price being halved in the past year. Over the past four weeks the Lower 48 oil production has averaged 229,000 barrels a day higher than the previous four weeks.

With regard to Canadian oil producers, many companies have implied commodity prices at or near the forward curve and some a little bit higher such as Suncor Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

 

We find this to be a useful exercise at times as a large divergence or disconnect either way can be indicative of a sector bottom like in mid-2012 or the peaks of early 2011 and mid-2014.

But today’s signals suggest more uncertainty and are creating a very challenging environment to make an investment decision in.

The bad news is that this may mean we have not yet seen the final capitulation usually needed before the start of a new bull cycle.  This is because high CAD-denominated forward prices, low interest rates and the large capital flow into the sector are providing an artificial sense of hope for marginal producers.

That said, there are still opportunities in the sector, but one has to work extra hard to mitigate the risks of uncertainty.

We continue to stay away from Alberta oil and gas producers as there is still way too much jurisdictional uncertainty. They could under perform like they did during the last royalty review and as a result have a higher cost of capital.

Instead, we look to own those well-funded, non-Alberta producers such as Crescent Point Energy Corp. that are looking to gain market share in this challenged environment.

Read more on protecting your portfolio and capital at hignnetworth.wordpress.com

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Iraq About to Flood Oil Market in New Front of OPEC Price War

(Bloomberg) — Iraq is taking OPEC’s strategy to defend its share of the global oil market to a new level.

The nation plans to boost crude exports by about 26 percent to a record 3.75 million barrels a day next month, according to shipping programs, signaling an escalation of OPEC strategy to undercut U.S. shale drillers in the current market rout. The additional Iraqi oil is equal to about 800,000 barrels a day, or more than comes from OPEC member Qatar. The rest of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is expected to rubber stamp its policy to maintain output levels at a meeting on June 5.

While shipping schedules aren’t a promise of future production, they are indicative of what may come. The following chart graphs planned tanker loadings (in red) against exports.

As in previous months, Iraq might not hit its June target – export capacity is currently capped at 3.1 million barrels a day, Deputy Oil Minister Fayyad al-Nimaa said on May 18. Still, any extra Iraqi supplies inevitably mean OPEC strays even further above its collective output target of 30 million barrels a day, Morgan Stanley says. The following chart shows OPEC increasing output in recent months against its current target.

Defying the threat from Islamic State militants, Iraq has been ramping up exports from both the Shiite south – where companies like BP Plc and Royal Dutch Shell Plc operate – and the Kurdish region in the north, which last year reached a temporary compromise with the federal government on its right to sell crude independently.

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Alberta Election Result Latest Blow to Oil Industry

(Bloomberg) — Canada’s energy industry, already buffeted by low oil prices and stalled pipeline projects, is bracing for more setbacks after a New Democratic Party that pledges to raise corporate taxes was swept to power in Alberta.

The NDP, led by Rachel Notley, ended a 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty by winning a majority of districts in elections Tuesday, according to preliminary results. The NDP promises to boost corporate taxes, review the government’s take on energy revenue, scale back advocacy for pipelines and phase out coal power more quickly.

“It’s completely devastating,” for energy companies and investors, Rafi Tahmazian, who helps manage C$1 billion ($831 million) in energy funds at Canoe Financial LP in Calgary, said on Tuesday. “The perception from the market based on their comments is they’re extremely dangerous.”

The NDP victory may spark a sell off in Canadian energy stocks and stall investment in the oil patch, which is counting on more than C$500 billion in spending over the next three decades in the oil sands alone. The Standard & Poor’s/TSX Energy Index of 64 Canadian oil and gas stocks fell 1.4 percent Tuesday before results came out, the biggest drop in a month.

Energy producers in Alberta, the heart of the Canadian industry, are cutting jobs, reducing drilling and shelving billions of dollars of new investment because of the oil price collapse. While U.S. crude’s rise to around $60 a barrel from a six-year low in March has injected fresh optimism into the industry, executives are preparing for a slow recovery to levels that would make new projects profitable in the oil sands, the world’s third-largest reserves.

Clear Negative

“Just when we’re starting to look like we’re recovering here, we get another layer of uncertainty,” said Martin Pelletier, managing director and portfolio manager at TriVest Wealth Counsel Ltd. in Calgary. Pelletier sold some oil and gas shares as polls ahead of Tuesday’s vote forecast an NDP win, he said. “It’s a clear and material negative.”

U.S. investor clients of Calgary-based investment bank AltaCorp Capital Inc. were also pulling positions in Canadian stocks in the run up to the election, anticipating an NDP victory, said analyst Jeremy McCrea. Energy shares, particularly oil-sands operators, are poised to fall over the threat of higher royalty rates, he said.

Suncor Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd., Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and Cenovus Energy Inc. are among Canada’s largest oil-sands operators.

“Now is not the time for a royalty review,” said Jeff Gaulin, vice president of communications at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “The uncertainty that that would create for investment would jeopardize jobs in Alberta.”

Good Partner

The energy lobby group is confident it can nonetheless work with Notley’s NDP, Gaulin said.

“Our government will be a good partner” for the energy industry, Notley, 51, said in her victory speech.

There’s a precedent for a stock sell-off based on Alberta energy policy. Canadian oil and gas stocks lost ground to their U.S. peers around October 2007 when the Progressive Conservative government raised royalty rates. The shares traded about 14 percent lower for more than a year, until early indications the government would consider reversing the hikes, according to an AltaCorp analysis. In 2010, the PCs led by Ed Stelmach retreated from most of the royalty boost.

Investor Concern

“If you are invested in energy stocks, you should be concerned,” McCrea said. Drillers already face higher costs to extract oil and gas in Alberta than in many jurisdictions, so an increase in royalties would make the province even less competitive, he said.

The number of oil rigs deployed in Canada’s biggest energy-producing province is at its lowest since 2009 after oil lost half its value last year, according to Baker Hughes Inc. data. Already, Western Canada’s oil growth is poised to slow by 59 percent next year, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute.

Oil growth in the region will slow to 17,000 barrels a day by next year from 41,000 barrels a day in 2014 as conventional production from drilling declines and stays below last year’s levels through the rest of the decade, according to CERI.

Keystone XL

While not in the party’s official platform, Notley has said she will not advocate for the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines, oil export projects that have come under fire from environmental opponents of the oil sands and communities fearful of spills along their paths. She has said that Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain line and TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East project are worth discussion.

The Alberta government has been a champion in Washington of Keystone XL, TransCanada’s $8 billion pipeline awaiting a decision by U.S. President Barack Obama. Previous provincial leaders have joined the Canadian government in raising awareness about oil-sands development and regulation to try to win U.S. support for Keystone, a line proposed in 2008 that would transport Canadian crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast.’’

Under the NDP, the corporate tax rate will increase to 12 percent from 10 percent. Notley will form a committee to review royalties and has said she will support more refining of oil in the province, despite a commonly-held view by investors and companies that it isn’t profitable.

Minimum Wage

The new premier will also increase the minimum wage to C$15 an hour and impose stiffer environmental standards and monitoring, according to the party’s election platform. In addition, the NDP leader will ban gas drilling in urban areas. The NDP would phase out coal-fired power plants more quickly than federal regulations that limit them to a 50-year life.

Coal is the biggest contributor to the electricity supply in Alberta, where Westmoreland Coal Co., TransAlta Corp. and Teck Resources Ltd. are among producers.

Alberta and Saskatchewan lead the country in the use of coal for electricity, and both provinces have the highest per capita carbon emissions in Canada, at more than 60 metric tons, compared with 12.5 tons in Ontario, according to Environment Canada figures.

Still, Notley’s platform is a general guideline and the new premier will probably move carefully on economic policies, said Jim Lightbody, chair of the University of Alberta’s political science department in Edmonton. She wouldn’t be able to govern the province and make moves detrimental to the energy industry, he said.

“I would project that she moves carefully, cautiously, sensibly,” Lightbody said.

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