We know, we know, you don’t want to hear about oil. No one seems interested in the all-important commodity at the moment, but that is exactly why you might want to pay attention. Oil stocks have had a terrible decade—down 10% while the S&P 500 rose almost 300%, hence the derision they face from investors. Prices are so low that oil now composes just 4.5% of the S&P 500, very near to the lowest ever (in 1999). The big question investors need to be asking themselves is “is this peak pessimism”?
FINSUM: We think oil stocks offer some value right now, but what will be the catalyst to make them rise? A big economic boom seems unlikely at present. Oil missed this cycle and it is still oversupplied. We would stay away.
Oil prices are going to get some support as OPEC is planning to cut its output. That won’t be welcome news to those at the pump this summer, but it is good for the oil industry. Within the cuts, there will be winners and losers. One big worry is that the cuts won’t even work because there is still too much production from the US and because the primary fears are on the demand side, not the production side. The key is to buy oil stocks that can thrive in a low price environment and deliver improving returns to investors. These include EOG Resources, Suncor, Pioneer Natural Resources, NRG Energy, and Delek.
FINSUM: Oil stocks are deeply out of favor right now, so this is quite a contrarian call, but given the catalyst of OPEC cut they may be a solid bet.
Something very interesting is happening across commodities markets—they are rallying. The reason this is interesting is it is a broad-based rally, not just in a narrow safe haven like gold. Oil, a major barometer for growth, is also jumping. The reasons why are two-part. Firstly, the US and China seemed to ease trade tensions somewhat this week at the G20; but secondly, OPEC has said it is cutting oil output. Metals, grains, and emerging markets also rallied.
FINSUM: This makes sense because a de-escalation of the trade war would help the global economy. Further, a reduction in tariffs would simply make the flow of commodities and goods smoother once again.
Oil is looking likely to fall sharply, and not just because the world’s economy is looking soft. According to the IEA, oil supply is likely to dwarf demand next year, which will very likely lead to lower prices. Many new projects will come online, boosting oil supply far more than demand, which may only grow slightly, or even shrink if the economy heads downward. This will put more pressure on OPEC.
FINSUM: Nothing is looking bullish about oil other than geopolitical tensions (the effects of which tend to blow over quickly).
Some of the market’s most important indicators are sending warning signs. Both oil and gold are trading in a way that has traditionally signaled that a big downturn is headed our way. Oil has fallen to near a bear market on concerns over growth, while gold has shot higher on the same worries. The extent of the moves is unique and has often presaged nasty movements in broader asset prices. In both the Dotcom bust and the Financial Crisis, oil and gold behaved similarly, so the question is whether they are sending the same message now. One market analyst noted, “Only three other times in history precious metals surged while oil plunged! All of them happened during severe bear markets and recessions … Buckle up, folks”.
FINSUM: It is odd to think that this has not happened more often as it is exactly what you would expect in times of anxiety about growth. Accordingly, this must be noted.