E Deducing The Crash In Oil: How Would Sherlock Holmes Drill Beneath The Headlines?

Chevron is feeling the pain in lower oil prices even more than Exxon.  It is 31% from its high. Quite a plunge. 

Chevron is laying off 1,500 workers. So not only have investors felt a lot of pain in the oil sector, but as Sherlock might uncover,  it is the workers that are really getting hit.

This oil plunge could not have come at a worse time. It is like a kick in the shins to a weak leg that was barely healing. Our economy has  experienced very tepid growth since the 2009 recession. It is possibly the weakest recovery in recent memory. 

Last year, all the economists and journalists were observing how the fracking boom was heaven-sent and would buoy the US economy. What a difference a year makes. Now they are scratching their heads trying to figure where they got it so wrong as they stand helplessly watching oil plunge under $50 a barrel and oil and gas exploration companies handing out pink slips.

“The principle difference between a good and a bad diagnostician is usually a matter of thoroughness and method. Brains count, of course, but the man who has not collected his facts has but little chance to use his brains.” - Holmes

All of which is  horrible for the oil sector but as Sherlock might ask, what does it do to our whole economy and the future earnings growth for the S&P 500 for the rest of 2015 and next year?

Observe the following: Last Thursday, GDP came in at a 2.3% level for the second quarter of 2015.  A disappointing number overall. CNBC reported it would have been closer to 3%  if it had not been for the $29 billion drop in U.S. oil  and mining activity. 

Our sluggish economy may soon get a lot more sluggish. 

And who or what caused all this ? Let's NOT start with the obvious,  namely the Saudi Arabians and their desire to drive the U.S. frackers out of business. (And now we will soon have the Iranians joining in that cause.) No, the situation is far more complex requiring some real digging into the facts.

Make no mistake about it: This sell-off in oil will have far-reaching effects into the US economy, hitting both investors and workers. 

Layoffs at the three biggest big oil & gas service companies total over 60,000. And some say more will follow beyond what Exxon  and Chevron  have already announced.

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This writing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell, a solicitation to buy, or a recommendation regarding any securities transaction, or as an offer to provide ...

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Leslie Miriam 1 year ago Member's comment

Fun article, you should write more.

Currency Trader 5 years ago Member's comment

Not a good time to be a $XOM or $CVX shareholder.

Carol W 5 years ago Author's comment

well the charts today would agree..is the bottom in? perhaps..cheers and thanks for reading..

Dr. Duru 5 years ago Contributor's comment

I think the analysis should also take into account what happens to the savings consumers gather from the cheaper gasoline and other petroleum-based products. Even if they are not spending the money on other goods, they are likely using it to pay down debt. That alone can relieve a lot of stress for a lot of non-oil families. Let's see which effect is the bigger. I have an article coming out soon summarizing the amazing results of LGI Homes whose base is in Texas and saw crazy sales numbers in Houston.

The increase in rig count in Canada may not be so good if all it does is add supply to an over-supplied situation.

I am also surprised you didn't weave in the demand side. Could it be that the persistent weakness in oil prices is also revealing how weak the global economy is in general, in particular China? I believe oil demand in the U.S. is already on a secular decline...

But overall, I loved the article as usual. Great narration weaving Sherlock in there!

And now imagine what is going through the collective mind of the Federal Reserve. I think it would be unprecedented to start tightening policy in the face of such a collapse in prices in this large a part of the economy!

Carol W 5 years ago Author's comment

I don't think they're paying off their mortgage cause they saved 2 bucks at the pump. maybe an extra burger this week or an imported beer over domestic! cheers! look forward to your atricle LGI also does a lot of building in California no?

Dr. Duru 5 years ago Contributor's comment

LGIH post up: seekingalpha.com/.../3409056-a-breakout-performance-and-increased-guidance-send-lgi-homes-higher-as-texas-delivers. TPH is the regional with a lot of building in California. They are also undervalued.

Carol W 5 years ago Author's comment

thank DOC..you rock..good points...I could have gone on and on..cheers

Carol W 5 years ago Author's comment

And remember, any one who registers by leaving a thoughtful comment on TalkMarkets is automatically entered into their contest to win an iPad Air 2! More details here: http://www.talkmarkets.com/ipad-contest

Anastasija Janevska 5 years ago Member's comment

Nice article Carol W!

Carol W 5 years ago Author's comment

thank you so much Anastasija

Brett Fromme 5 years ago Member's comment

Great article as usual. I enjoy your writing style as much as the content.

Even though oil prices are dropping, why does US oil production stay firm and why have oil rig counts stopped falling? I think the answer is that the oil producers have huge debts to service and they need the revenue to make the interest payments.

If oil drops low enough, oil producers will start to miss payments, default on bonds. and be forced into bankruptcy. Only then will we see a temporary drop in oil production as assets move from the weak hands to the stronger hands.

But as you pointed out, this will be quite painful for the companies, their workers, the bond holders, the banks and the communities that feed off the oil industry.

I think the wildcard in all this is how well the financial system will be able to handle the bond defaults. In 2008 the defaults on bonds based on worthless sub-prime mortgages almost caused the entire financial system to collapse.

The question is, what is the magnitude of impending bond defaults from the failing oil companies? You state that it is 1 trillion in loans, and 50 billion in bonds or 14% of last year's total junk bond market through October. But what is the total size of the bonds and loans issued to oil companies at risk of default? Is it as great as the sub-prime debacle that nearly caused a systemic collapse? How can we even know the magnitude of the impending bond defaults when they have been repackaged and sold to bond funds? In addition,what is the magnitude of the derivatives that have been generated off of those junk bonds?

Could the US oil company implosion equal the magnitude of the 2008 sub-prime mortgage melt-down? This is where more digging needs to be done, and soon.

Regards,

BDF_NYC

Leslie Miriam 1 year ago Member's comment

I agree!

Carol W 5 years ago Author's comment

thanks you your insights and compliments..have a great day

Alexa Graham 2 years ago Member's comment

I miss your work and your comments, Carol. Hope to see you again soon.

Wendell Brown 5 years ago Member's comment

I think Sherlock would be hesitant to use that one small clue as an indicator, but he certainly would file it away for future reference! It's a tiny blip in an otherwise downward slide but to mix metaphors and fictional characters ... 'curiouser and curiouser!" Thanks for all this info.

Carol W 5 years ago Author's comment

hahaha...thanks..cheers Carol