For every winner in the markets, there is a loser. That's a harsh lesson to learn, especially in the current economy where not everyone is benefitting from the drop in crude oil prices -- a lingering casualty of deflationary supply-demand dynamics. However, it's more than just petroleum producers who are feeling the pinch.
"As drivers, shippers and airlines continue to enjoy lower fuel prices, the oil industry is responding to much lower profits with sharp cuts in spending and employment that are hurting economic growth," writes Jonathan Fahey of AP. In many respects, the initial reduction in oil prices buoyed consumer confidence, with the latest economic reports suggesting that Americans allocated their energy savings with extra trips to retail outlets or restaurants.
Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a free lunch: someone always has to foot the bill. For a year now, that has been the oil companies. The smaller, independent names from that sector has borne the brunt of the damage, with many of them facing imminent collapse. On the other hand, the so-called majors -- names like Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) or Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX) -- have been able to stay relatively steady, even after taking a beating in the markets.
But even industry stalwarts can only absorb so much pain for so long -- and the majors are responding. "Exxon Mobil said Friday it cut spending by $1.54 billion in the second quarter, while Chevron announced it is laying off 1,500 workers. Until about six months ago, booming U.S. oil and gas production was helping the country's economy grow during a time of economic sluggishness," according to the AP.
Will such slashes in their financials matter in terms of market valuation? When we look at a long-term chart of Chevron, we can see that investors are unimpressed with management's proposed solutions. CVX stock was slammed on Friday, July 31, when its earnings report showed a negative impact on profitability, dragging down the major indices. Year-to-date, CVX is down 21%.
Given the velocity of decline, the long hands of the markets will need to quickly establish support -- and then catalyze a rally as soon as possible. Currently, CVX is at lows not seen since 2012 and investors can quickly lose hope with the bearishness of the economy and the industry. That could possibly entail a trip down to around $65 where long-term support from 2010 may grab hold.
The enormous drop in capitalization may turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grab the majors at a discount. However, the present environment suggests that patient investors can receive a much better deal.