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A ‘’Gusher Of Red Ink’’ For U.S. Shale

A ‘’Gusher Of Red Ink’’ For U.S. Shale

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Oil prices are off more about 20 percent in the last two weeks on growing fears of a brewing economic recession. Commodities of all types have been hammered by the pessimism.

“Fear of global economic growth slowing,” said Peter Kiernan, lead energy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), according to Reuters, “afflicting the entire energy complex with worries that demand growth will be bearish this year.” Prices for coal, natural gas and LNG, and crude oil have plunged.

“The continued escalation in trade tensions and broad-based fall in manufacturing…suggest that the downside risks to growth are becoming more prominent,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note.

Yet another downturn could not come at a worse time for U.S. shale drillers, who have struggled to turn a profit. Time and again, shale executives have promised that profitability is right around the corner. Years of budget-busting drilling has succeeded in bringing a tidal wave of oil online, but a corresponding wave of profits has never materialized.

Heading into 2019, the industry promised to stake out a renewed focus on capital discipline and shareholder returns. But that vow is now in danger of becoming yet another in a long line of unmet goals.

“Another quarter, another gusher of red ink,” the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, along with the Sightline Institute, wrote in a joint report on the first quarter earnings of the shale industry.

The report studied 29 North American shale companies and found a combined $2.5 billion in negative free cash flow in the first quarter. That was a deterioration from the $2.1 billion in negative cash flow from the fourth quarter of 2018. “This dismal cash flow performance came despite a 16 percent quarter-over-quarter decline in capital expenditures,” the report’s authors concluded.

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