These Oil Producers Are Ready For A Quick Pop

Sara Nunnally's picture

Thursday, June 9, 2016 - 12:30pm

by Sara Nunnally

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil closed above $50 a barrel for the first time in seven months on June 7.

Price movements have created a deep "V" shape over the past year. WTI's price per barrel fell almost 39.5% between November 2015 and lows in January 2016.

But since then, oil prices have won nearly every cent back. That means oil prices have climbed more than 59.3% since mid-January.

This swift rise may have a positive impact over the coming quarter for oil companies, and now might be a good time to capture some short-term gains. Let me explain.

Back in April, Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) reported its smallest profit since 1999, with only $1.8 billion in profits for the first quarter of 2016. That's no surprise looking at the chart above. After falling by more than a third, oil prices started swinging madly in the first quarter of 2016, ending even by the end of March.

Business Insider reported at the time:

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor's downgraded Exxon's rating to "AA+" from "AAA," stripping the company of its top rating for the first time since the Great Depression.

S&P was concerned that Exxon's debt, acquired as it invested in big capital projects, had far outstripped its internally generated cash flow.

But here's the thing... XOM actually beat earnings per share estimates. The company turned in adjusted EPS of $0.43 compared to the expected $0.29.

Shares popped on the news, and have continued higher since then. XOM's share price is now higher than it's been in since mid-February 2015. Is there more in the tank now that oil prices have crested $50 per barrel?

Perhaps.

Forbes is reporting a "quiet" commodity bull market. And that's not wrong... yet.

From the report by contributor Bryan Rich:

Within the course of the past four short months, commodities have gone from being the leading threat for global stocks, to being a leading indicator of an emerging bull cycle for stocks.

It's true that oil prices have climbed more than 59% in the past six months. But it's also true that oil prices have not quite broken above the wide shelf of the trading range back in late summer and early fall 2015. Let's take another look at that chart.

I've marked the shelf in red and extended the line to the current uptrend. The green lines mark the overall uptrend from the January lows. These trendlines converge to create a diamond that can "trap" movements, as price bounces back and forth like a pinball.

Where these four trendlines overlap is right where oil prices are trading. And we can see oil start to consolidate as it crosses into the red range. This can be taken as a sign of resistance, and could mean the start of another horizontal trading spell.

This idea somewhat coincides with the oil price ceiling I've told you about in past articles. When Saudi Arabia vowed to not cut oil production, U.S. producers had to start shutting down their own production. Many analysts predicted that production would start ramping up again if prices reached $55 per barrel.

Increased production would inevitably mean a drop in prices.

These trendlines seem to speak to that ceiling.

Now, before we go any further, it may seem like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth. I've said that these higher oil prices could mean a boost for oil producers, and I've also said that oil prices may not have much farther to climb.

Both of these things are true, and here's what they could mean for investors: A short-term pop in oil producers.

So far in the second quarter of 2016, oil prices have climbed almost 33.5%. That's the lion's share of the comeback oil prices have made since January's lows.

This rise might not be apparent in oil producers' share prices quite yet.

In fact, on June 2, Bank of America/Merril Lynch downgraded XOM from "buy" to "neutral." In March, Raymond James downgraded Chevron (NYSE: CVX) to "marketperform" from "outperform." Jefferies knocked ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) down to "underperform" from "hold" in April.

Check out the share price performance of these companies since first-quarter earnings came out.

This seems to show some potential for an upswing, particularly with the momentum since the beginning of this month.

That could be a playable move higher for those investors with a short-term horizon.

Risks To Consider: Whenever prices move into a diamond created by trendlines, movements become narrower and less definitive. It's harder to predict where prices will move next. For longer-term traders, these kinds of choppy swings can feel awfully risky... And they are, particularly as oil prices are reaching the top of that trading band. They will need a surge of momentum to push through and continue higher.

That may not happen.

Action To Take: But for short-term investors, the swings could open up small opportunities to take quick gains.

XOM revenue is expected to swing positive in the second quarter of 2016, as is COP. With the positive moves higher in oil prices since April, this could mean XOM and COP share prices will climb... Already in the second quarter, XOM shares climbed more than 9%.

COP shares climbed a whopping 21%.

Expect similar moves higher after second quarter earnings come out in late July for both companies.

Editor's Note: Has CEO Elon Musk just cracked the energy storage code? His under-the-radar project is about to unleash a ravenous demand and take over the $1.3 trillion energy market. Here's how you can ride Tesla's coattails to triple and quadruple gains in 2016 and beyond -- without buying a single share of Tesla stock.

Sara Nunnally does not personally hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.
StreetAuthority LLC does not hold positions in any securities mentioned in this article.