Energy Business

Crude Price Comeback Boosts Sagging Energy Stocks

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil traded up nearly 25% early Thursday at around $17.15 a barrel after closing at $13.78 on Wednesday. The essential question is whether WTI can hold the gains it has piled up since Monday’s debacle and lift the price back to around $25 a barrel, a level at which a lot of U.S. shale producers can at least break even.

That’s not going to be easy. With the exception of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), U.S. crude storage tanks are nearing capacity. High production levels spawned by the price war begun in March between Russia and Saudi Arabia, combined with a nearly unprecedented drop in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sent WTI oil futures into negative numbers for the first time ever. May delivery contracts expired on Tuesday, and traders unable to rollover their front-month contracts or unable to find buyers for the physical oil were forced to pay a buyer with available storage to take the May barrels.

As of Thursday morning, WTI prices have gotten a boost from the U.S. president’s announcement that he has ordered the SPR to buy 75 million barrels of crude to put into storage. Trump also reportedly ordered U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf to sink Iranian vessels if they continue to harass the U.S. warships. Iran responded by ordering its ships to “target” American warships if U.S. ships “jeopardize [Iran’s] commercial … or combat vessels.” The threat of a shooting engagement between Iran and the United States practically guarantees a rise in crude oil prices.

Among the oil and gas production companies posting the largest gains Thursday are some of the weakest firms in the sector. About six weeks ago, we looked at the 10 exploration and production companies that had posted the biggest year-to-date losses as of March 9. Here’s a look at how those 10 companies have fared as of Thursday morning.

Pioneer Natural Resources Co. (NYSE: PXD) fell by more than 56% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $66.31 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $82.65, an increase of about 27%, most of which occurred in the past two days. For the year to date, Pioneer stock is down nearly 45%.

Parsley Energy Inc. (NYSE: PE) fell by 66% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $6.40 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $8.18, an increase of about 28%, most of which occurred in the past two days. For the year to date, Parley Energy stock is down about 56%.

Diamondback Energy Inc. (NASDAQ: FANG)  fell by nearly 71% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $26.88 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $36.77, an increase of about 36%. Diamondback had reached that level by early April, only to drop back more than 30% before climbing again in the past two days. For the year to date, Diamondback stock is down by nearly 58%.

Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: WLL) fell by 89% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $0.80 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $1.87, an increase of about 28%, most of which has occurred since April 1. For the year to date, Whiting stock is down more than 73%. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late March.

Apache Corp. (NYSE: APA) fell by more than 62% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $9.55 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $10.57, an increase of about 15%, most of which has occurred since April 1. For the year to date, Apache stock is down more than 57%.

Marathon Oil Corp. (NYSE: MRO) fell by about 73% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $3.63 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $4.93, an increase of about 36%, most of which has occurred since April 1. For the year to date, Marathon stock is down more than 63%.

Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLR) fell by more than 79% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $7.05 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $13.39, an increase of about more than 97%, most of which occurred in the past two days. For the year to date, Continental stock is down more than 60%.

Hess Corp. (NYSE: HES) fell by more than 50% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $32.98 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $42.43, an increase of about 27%, most of which has occurred since April 1. For the year to date, Hess stock is down nearly 37%.

Devon Energy Corp. (NYSE: DVN) fell by about 88% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $8.37 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $10.94, an increase of about 32%, most of which has occurred since April 1. For the year to date, Devon stock is down nearly 58%.

Occidental Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: OXY) fell by about 69% between January 1 and March 9, closing at $12.51 a share. As of Thursday morning, shares traded at $14.37, an increase of about 12%, most of which has occurred since April 1. For the year to date, Occidental stock is down almost 65%.

Other exploration and production companies trading below $1 a share have seen some of the largest one-day gains as of Thursday morning. QEP Resources Inc. (NYSE: QEP) traded up 46% at $0.62, Denbury Resources Inc. (NYSE: DNR) traded up 62% at $0.35 and Extraction Oil and Gas Inc. (NASDAQ: XOG) traded up 45% at $0.44.