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Investing Topics: West Texas Intermediate

Updated Outlook for Oil Prices

Although we became bullish on oil prices last summer when the commodity slipped into the $40s per barrel, our forecast for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) to average between $60 and $65 per barrel appears conservative—especially in an environment where involuntary supply disruptions and robust demand growth could result in short-term spikes to $80 per barrel. We now expect WTI to spend most of its time between $60 and $70 per barrel in 2018 and Brent to range between $65 and $75 per barrel.

Déjà Vu for the Oil Market and Energy Stocks?

Last week’s spike in volatility was difficult for every investor, especially after a period of unprecedented placidity during which many market participants forgot the terror that these swoons can induce, even if US equities were overdue for some profit-taking.

For better or worse, the highs and lows of this down-cycle have accustomed energy-focused investors to bouts of sharp volatility. Nevertheless, the selloff in energy stocks was still harrowing, with the S&P 500 Energy Index giving up all the gains it had chalked up in the first month of the year.

Energy stocks appear to be suffering from a case of déjà vu. Last year, the sharp recovery in US crude production and the oil-directed rig count, coupled with money managers taking profits on their sizable long positions in Brent and West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures, conspired to send WTI tumbling to as low as $42 per barrel.

On the surface, a similar dynamic is at play today.

 

Focus On The Permania

The latest additions to the Energy & Income Advisor Focus List have lagged of late, primarily because of the selloff in West Texas Intermediate crude oil. In light of these recent market moves, we we revisit our outlook and investment strategy.

Planning for a Pullback

An environment where oil prices remain lower for longer favors US independent exploration and production companies that own high-quality assets in the lowest-cost shale plays.

The best upstream operators continue to reduce their per barrel production costs through efficiency gains and enhanced drilling and completion techniques that boost per-well output. Some of the strongest names can generate a decent return on capital with oil prices in the mid-$30s per barrel.

Despite significant volatility, crude-oil prices have trended lower since the beginning of June. Our near-term outlook calls for West Texas Intermediate (WTI) to tumble into the $30s per barrel over the next one to three months, a period of seasonally weak demand.

This weakness could create another opportunity to buy our favorite exploration and production names.

 

The Oil Down-Cycle: Lessons from the Past

US oil prices would need to overshoot the levels supported by prevailing supply and demand conditions to prompt producers to idle rigs and reduce capital expenditures dramatically. Weak balance sheets and higher-cost asset bases will compel some operators to scale back.

This supply response in the US and elsewhere will signal that we’re near the bottom of the commodity cycle. The question investors must ask isn’t whether this will happen, but rather how long this process will take to occur.

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      Founder and Chief Analyst: Capitalist Times and Energy & Income Advisor

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      Founder and Chief Analyst: Capitalist Times and Energy & Income Advisor