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U.S. Shale Braces For Brutal Earnings Season

U.S. Shale Braces For Brutal Earnings Season

U.S. Shale

A lot of big names will report third quarter earnings this week, and the results are expected to be worse than the same period in 2018.

The timing comes as the shale sector is facing somewhat of a reckoning. After years of price volatility – with more downs than ups – oil prices have failed to return even remotely close to pre-2014 levels. For several years, shale E&Ps took on debt and issued new equity, promising investors that they would profit both from a rebound in prices and from rapid production growth.

They delivered on gains to output, but not on profits. At some point in the last year, investors really began to lose faith. Oil stocks have been the worst performers in the S&P 500 this year.

The latest release of earnings will probably do little to quell unease from big investors. Oil and natural gas prices have dropped this year, by about 17 percent and 31 percent, respectively. Job cuts have returned and bankruptcies are on the rise again.

The oil majors are pressing forward with their aggressive shale development plans. That may prevent a noticeable decline in production. But their earnings – many of the majors report this week – are expected to be down roughly 40 percent from a year ago, which will raise some tough questions.

Some of the largest banks have slashed their credit lines to smaller shale E&Ps. According to Reuters, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and the Royal Bank of Canada are among some of the lenders that have reduced the amount of credit they are offering to drillers.

The so-called credit redetermination period happens twice a year, and banks tend to offer financing based on a company’s reserves. Lower prices lower that assessment because some reserves become uneconomic to produce. As a result, the ability to access financing becomes more restricted.

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