Oil companies are hemorrhaging money…

The oil market is in its worst downturn in decades. The price of oil has plummeted 72% since June 2014. Oil is trading below $30 a barrel for the first time since 2003.

If you’ve been reading the Dispatch, you know the world has too much oil. In recent years, technologies like “fracking” have unlocked billions of barrels of oil that were once impossible to extract from shale regions.

Global oil production has climbed 20% since 2000. Last year, global output hit an all-time high. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported the global oil market is oversupplied by 1.5 million barrels a day.

Because oil is leaving the ground faster than it’s being consumed, oil storage tanks are overflowing. Companies are now storing oil on tankers floating at sea, according to Bloomberg Business.

•  Low oil prices have slammed oil stocks…

Since June 2014, Exxon Mobil (XOM), the world’s largest oil company, has dropped 27%. Chevron (CVX), the second-biggest oil company, has plunged 38%.

European oil giants Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A), BP (BP), and Total S.A. (TOT) have plummeted 46%, on average, over the last 18 months.

Together, these giant companies are known as the oil “supermajors.”

•  BP had a $3.3 billion net loss last quarter…

And it lost $6.5 billion for the year, its worst annual loss in at least 30 years.

Exxon sales fell 28% last quarter. Its profits plunged 58% to $2.78 billion, the company’s lowest quarterly profit since 2002.

Chevron also booked its worst quarterly profit since 2002.

Shell expects to report a 42% decline in profits for their fourth quarter.

•  Oil and gas companies slashed spending by 22% last year…

Analysts expect another 12% cut this year to $522 billion, according to Reuters. The industry hasn’t spent that little since 2009…when the U.S. economy was going through its worst downturn in almost a century.

More spending cuts are coming this year…

Chevron plans to cut spending by 24% this year. The company laid off 10% of its employees in October. Exxon plans to cut spending by 25% in 2016. And BP plans to eliminate 9% of its jobs over the next two years.

•  The supermajors have not cut dividends yet…

Regular readers know these oil giants pay some of the steadiest income streams on the planet. Shell hasn’t cut its dividend since World War II. Exxon and Chevron have both increased their annual dividends for at least the past 25 years, which earns them a spot in the “Dividend Aristocrats” club.

Investors view these dividends as sacred. Some have even passed along their original shares to children and grandchildren, like grandma’s ring or the family farm.

These giant oil companies have been paying regular dividends for decades, even through the 2001 dot-com crash and 2008 financial crisis. Cutting their dividends would be a last resort.

•  The world’s oil giants may have to do the “unthinkable” if oil prices stay low…

Financial Times reported in December,

…(J)ust weeks ago, BP and France’s Total each pledged to balance their books at $60 a barrel oil, saying they aimed to cover their dividends from “organic” cash flow by 2017.

…(E)ven at $60, the three biggest European majors will need to take further cost-cutting action to cover investor payouts…Total’s $6.8bn dividend would exceed its projected organic free cash flow by $800m two years from now. For BP, the cash shortfall is put at $500m…

These oil companies cut costs to be profitable at $60 oil. But with oil now at $30, they need to make even more drastic cuts.

BP is running out of places to cut spending according to Bloomberg Business.

While Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley has trimmed billions of dollars of spending, cut thousands of jobs and deferred projects in response to the plunge in crude prices, BP’s cash flow still doesn’t cover investments and dividends…

BP has already cut “a lot” from capital expenditure, Chief Financial Officer Brian Gilvary said Tuesday at a press briefing in London. When asked how much room it has to reduce spending further before cutting into the bone, Gilvary said “we are around that zone.”

•  Standard & Poor’s (S&P) downgraded Chevron and Shell this week…

Ratings agencies downgrade a company’s credit rating when they think the company’s financial health is getting worse. Like a person having a bad credit score, a downgrade can make it harder and more expensive for a company to borrow money.

S&P cut Shell’s credit rating to the lowest level since 1990. S&P also put the debt of BP, Total, and Exxon on watch for downgrades.

S&P doesn’t think oil companies have cut spending enough. Bloomberg Business reported:

S&P’s moves come after the ratings company lowered its 2016 oil-price assumption Jan. 12, reducing Brent crude by $15 a barrel to $40. The 52 percent average price decline in 2015 won’t be matched by most companies’ cost and spending reductions, S&P said.

As regular readers know, the oil market is cyclical. It goes through big booms and busts. Eventually we’ll get an amazing opportunity to buy world-class oil companies at absurdly cheap prices.

But with dividend cuts looming, the bottom likely isn’t in yet. We recommend avoiding oil stocks for now.

•  Louis James, editor of International Speculator, sees an opportunity to profit from cheap oil…

Louis is our resource guru. He specializes in finding small miners with huge upside. Louis is an expert in the cyclical nature of commodities. He knows how to make money during booms and busts. And now, Louis sees opportunity in airlines.

Jet fuel, which is made from oil, is a major operating expense for airlines. So, airline stocks often move up when oil drops. Last year, jet fuel prices fell by more than one-third. Major airlines are now raking in cash…

The U.S. airline industry made $22 billion in profits during the first nine months of 2015, according to the Department of Transportation. That’s more than any entire year in its history.

•  In December, Louis recommended his favorite airline stock in International Speculator.

The company has doubled its profits during the third quarter of 2015. On Monday, Louis said the company doubled its profits again last quarter.

The company just announced more-than-solid financial results for last quarter, doubling its quarterly profit. The company says it’s on track to hit the high end of its operational goals for the fiscal year. All great, but even better is that the stock rebounded from its recent slide on the news. That’s “proof of concept” that this stock can buck the market by delivering to the bottom line when other businesses are hurting, which was one of the main reasons we bought this stock.

The stock surged 4% with the quarterly news…and Louis thinks the stock will continue higher. You can learn more about Louis’ favorite airline by signing up for a risk-free trial to International Speculator.

Chart of the Day

BP just had its worst year in at least three decades…

Today’s chart shows BP’s profits since 1985. Since then, the oil giant has made money in 27 years and lost money in 3.

Last year, BP lost a record amount of money. It lost more than it did in 2010…when one of the company's oil rigs exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP has cut billions of dollars in spending. It’s laid off thousands of workers. Yet, it’s still bleeding cash. The company may soon have to do the unthinkable and cut its dividend.


Justin Spittler
Delray Beach, Florida
February 03, 2016

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