The US energy industry has morphed from 2016’s big winner, to the bottom of the heap this year in a slide that has accelerated as oil prices fell on Thursday to the lowest levels since November.
Energy stocks listed on the S&P 500 index dropped 1.7 per cent on Thursday. The fall brings the sector’s decline this year to 11.9 per cent, the biggest fall of the 11 major groups and a deep under performance compared to a 6.6 per cent year-to-date gain for the benchmark index, and a 23.7 per cent surge last year for the sector.
The latest leg lower came as crude benchmarks on both sides of the Atlantic came under selling pressure amid ongoing concerns that high supplies in North America could overshadow the production freeze that was agreed to between Opec and other major exporters, like Russia, and on concerns that Opec’s production cuts are being undercut by exports from storage.
“First, for US shale oil production growth, $50 a barrel has proven to be as good as $100 a barrel. Second, oil majors have adapted to the low price environment and are generally printing better than expected financial results,” said Olivier Jakob at Petromatrix, an energy consultancy.
West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, dropped 2.6 per cent to $46.57 a barrel, while Brent was off by 2.4 per cent to $49.55 a barrel.
The fall in energy stocks was wide-ranging on Thursday. EOG Resources, the biggest US shale group, dropped 2.15 per cent to $89.79, while ExxonMobil, the largest US energy company, fell 1 per cent to $81.91.