Goldman Sachs Downgrade Highlights Weakness for Whiting, Hess, Cimarex

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Goldman Sachs has soured on several exploration and production players in the oil and gas space, downgrading multiple companies in the sector. Tuesday’s downgrade cited stock valuations and noted backwardation in 2018 oil futures at to below $50 per barrel. As expected, the downgrades are hurting some of the key players. Many investors might take note that the “valuation” aspect of the calls is at a time when many of these key stocks are at or very close 52-week lows or lows not seen since 2016.

Shortly after noon on Tuesday, West Texas Intermediate crude was trading down 1.5%, or $0.76, at $49.23. This fight over whether oil will remain above or below $50 per barrel has now lasted about two weeks.

Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: WLL) was having a very rough start of the end of May after Goldman Sachs issued a nasty downgrade on the exploration and production company. Whiting was downgraded to Sell from Neutral. Along with that rating, the firm slashed its prior $11.50 price target down to $7.25. On Whiting Petroleum, Goldman Sachs noted that the company is likely to disappoint on investor volume growth and deleveraging expectations ahead.

Whiting Petroleum shares were last seen trading down 8.5%, or $0.67, at $7.29 in a 52-week trading range of $6.38 to $14.44. Its market cap is currently just $2.65 billion, but the 22 million shares traded by 12:30 on Tuesday was already about 150% of a normal trading day’s volume. Whiting had a consensus target price from the Thomson Reuters sell-side analyst universe of $12.76.

Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy in the note on exploration and production companies, and its price target was cut to $58 from $69. That still represents upside. The firm does not see Hess benefiting from capital efficient multiple compression but does see it trading at a premium to peers. Hess shares were down 3.2% at $46.60. The 52-week range is $45.12 to $65.56.

Cimarex Energy Co. (NYSE: XEC) was downgraded to Neutral from Buy. It now has a $133 price target, and despite the Neutral rating its shares were down 3% to $107.57. The firm maintained 2018 and 2019 earnings estimates, but it lowered 2017 earnings estimates. Cimarex has a 52-week range of $107.38 to $146.96.

Newfield Exploration Co. (NYSE: NFX) was raised to Buy from Neutral in the Goldman Sachs call, but the firm lowered its price target to $45 from $52. Newfield shares were last seen down 1.2% at $32.67 on Tuesday, in a 52-week range of $32.39 to $50.00.

It is not unusual for stock prices to change around analyst upgrades and downgrades. Those moves can be even more pointed when they come from the likes of Goldman Sachs. After all, Goldman Sachs caters solely to wealthy individuals and institutional investors.