Is it safe to buy oil stocks yet?
If you’ve been reading the Dispatch, you know the price of oil has plunged more than 70% since June 2014. Thanks to a massive surge in production, oil hit its lowest price since 2003 earlier this year.
New extraction methods like fracking made the production surge possible. Last year, global oil production hit an all-time high. Since then, companies have been pumping far more oil than the world consumes.
• America’s largest oil companies lost $67 billion last year…
Falling profits caused oil stocks to plunge.
The SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP), a fund that tracks major U.S. oil producers, has dropped 72% over the past two years.
The VanEck Vectors Oil Services ETF (OIH), which tracks major oil services companies, has fallen 57% since 2014. Oil services companies sell “picks and shovels” to oil producers.
However, oil stocks have showed signs of bottoming out in the past few months. XOP is up 57% since January, while OIH is up 45% in the same period.
• Oil companies have cut spending to the bone…
They’ve abandoned ambitious projects. They’ve cut back on buying new machinery and equipment. Some have even stopped paying dividends.
For many companies, spending less wasn’t enough.
Global oil companies have laid off more than 250,000 workers since 2014. Companies have also sold parts of their business to raise cash.
In March, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) announced plans to sell $30 billion worth of assets. Shell is the third-biggest oil company on the planet. According to Oilprice, Shell’s huge sale could include oil pipelines in the United States.
In April, Marathon Oil (MRO), one of the largest U.S. shale oil producers, said it plans to sell about $1 billion worth of assets.
Both companies have no choice but to get leaner. Shell’s profits plummeted 80% last year. Marathon lost $2.2 billion in 2015. It was the biggest annual loss in the company’s history.
• Many companies have sold oil assets in North Dakota…
As you may know, North Dakota was ground zero of America’s shale oil boom. From 2009 to 2014, the state’s oil production surged 554%. It became the country’s second-biggest oil-producing state after Texas.
North Dakota’s booming oil economy attracted more than 80,000 workers. It became the fastest-growing state in the country.
Then, oil prices plunged.
• North Dakota’s oil production has fallen 10% over the last 18 months…
And it’s likely to keep falling.
According to The Wall Street Journal, more than 2,000 oil wells in North Dakota haven’t pumped a drop of oil in over a year. That’s the highest number of idle wells in over a decade.
Many oil companies in North Dakota are burning through cash right now. They’re under distress, and they’re selling assets at deep discounts to pay the bills.
Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that this has attracted opportunistic investors:
The vultures are descending on North Dakota…
Hundreds of wells have changed hands or are in the process of being sold, state figures show, to a grab bag of fortune seekers ranging from industry experts to first-time wildcatters. They are picking up properties as more established producers scale back or shed assets to pay creditors.
According to The Wall Street Journal, some of these opportunistic investors are Wall Street veterans:
Houston-based Lime Rock Resources, founded by a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker and an oil-industry veteran, bought more than 340 North Dakota wells from Occidental Petroleum Corp. in November. The firm says it has at least $1.6 billion in private-equity money to invest, a portion of which it has spent on the Bakken. In another pairing of Wall Street and oil-patch veterans, NP Resources LLC bought 53 wells from Whiting Petroleum Corp. in December and is looking for more Bakken acreage.
This is a prime example of “crisis investing.” Regular readers are familiar with this strategy. As you’ve probably heard us say, crisis investing is one of the world’s most powerful wealth-building secrets. In short, crisis investing involves going against the crowd to buy beaten-down assets that have been left for dead. You can often use this strategy to buy a dollar’s worth of assets for pennies.
The good news is that you don’t need to step foot in North Dakota to crisis invest in the oil market. Anyone with a brokerage account can turn the oil crash into a money-making opportunity.
• As we said earlier, many oil stocks are showing signs of bottoming…
Lots of big oil companies, like Devon Energy Corporation (DVN) and Continental Resources, Inc (CLR), are up 50% or more off their lows. That’s because oil prices have jumped 89% since January. Last week, oil prices closed above $50 for the first time since July.
These big swings are typical for oil. Like most commodities, oil is cyclical, meaning it goes through big booms and busts.
It’s impossible to know for sure if oil prices have bottomed. Time will tell if oil’s recent jump is the start of new bull market.
But we do know that many oil stocks are trading at their best prices in years. And because the world still runs on oil, it’s smart to go “bargain hunting” for great oil stocks today.
• If you’re buying oil stocks, stick to the elite companies…
We look for a companies that can 1) make money at low oil prices. We also like companies with 2) healthy margins 3) plenty of cash and 4) little debt.
In March, Nick Giambruno, editor of Crisis Investing, recommended an oil company that checks all of these boxes. It has a rock-solid balance sheet…some of the industry’s highest profit margins…and “trophy assets” in America’s richest oil fields. Most importantly, it can make money at as low as $35 oil.
Like the “vultures” that descended on North Dakota, Nick used the oil meltdown as an opportunity to buy this world-class oil company at a huge discount. He bought the stock just weeks after it hit a three-year low.
Since then, the stock has gained 10%. But Nick says it could go much higher. After all, it’s still down 30% since June 2014.
You can access the name of this stock with a subscription to Crisis Investing, which you can learn more about right here.
By clicking this link, you’ll also hear about the biggest crisis on Nick’s radar. Every American needs to prepare for this coming crisis. By the end of this video, you’ll know how to protect yourself AND make money in its aftermath. Click here to watch this free video.
Chart of the Day
The oil surplus is shrinking…
Today’s chart shows the price of oil going back to the start of 2014. As we said earlier, the price of oil has nearly doubled since January. But you can see that it’s still about half of what it was two years ago.
Oil prices are still low for a couple reasons. One, the global economy is slowing. As Dispatch readers know, the U.S., Europe, Japan, and China are all growing at their slowest rates in decades.
Secondly, the world still has too much oil. According to the Financial Times, oil companies are producing 800,000 more barrels of oil a day than the world consumes.
In February, the global surplus stood at about 1.5 million barrels a day. The surplus has come down because oil companies are pumping less oil.
But that’s not the only reason the global oil surplus has shrunk. On Monday, Bloomberg Business said the industry has also been hit by major “disruptions”:
Outages also have taken their toll on supply, with global disruptions reaching an average 3.6 million barrels a day last month, the most since the Energy Information Administration began tracking them in 2011. Fires that began early May in Alberta took out an average 800,000 barrels of Canadian supply last month, while Nigerian crude output dropped to the lowest in 27 years as militants increased attacks on pipelines in the Niger River delta.
Delray Beach, Florida
June 15, 2016
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