Energy Investors Cling To False Hopes : The Lost Decade

It has been a very challenging time for investors in the energy space, but we find their resiliency impressive, considering they have endured a decade of little to no returns.

Oil companies say there will be a price to pay — a much higher price — for all the cost cutting being done today to cope with the collapse in the crude market.

Investors haven’t made any money over the past decade with the S&P TSX Capped Energy Index gaining a paltry 0.3 per cent annually while the Canadian dollar-adjusted West Texas Intermediate oil price is up only 0.7 per cent per year. This compares to the S&P TSX Index that has gained just over seven per cent per year over the same period.

Even though it remained fairly flat over the past 10 years, the energy index has experienced tremendous volatility with an average standard deviation of 30 per cent, more than double the TSX’s 14 per cent.

It is doubtful that many investors rode out the entire period, instead we think they pulled the ripcord during some of the periods of excess volatility. It’s even worse for those who purchased at its recent peak in mid-2014.

Which is why we find it rather amazing that investors plowed a whopping $5.5 billion into the Canadian exploration and production sector through bought-deal equity financings in the first quarter, and an additional $1.4 billion raised so far this quarter.

Which is why we find it rather amazing that investors plowed a whopping $5.5 billion into the Canadian exploration and production sector through bought-deal equity financings in the first quarter, and an additional $1.4 billion raised so far this quarter.

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Looking Ahead

With regards to oil prices, we think there could more downside than upside on the horizon especially in this environment of a prolonged global supply-demand imbalance.

On the positive side, global oil demand has been improving and is up 1.2 per cent from last May. However, this may not be enough as global supply has exceeded demand for the past five quarters and could soon see the longest glut since 1985, according to financial news provider Bloomberg.

Not helping matters is OPEC production growth as the group aims to protect its market share against North American producers that have yet to curtail output despite the oil price being halved in the past year. Over the past four weeks the Lower 48 oil production has averaged 229,000 barrels a day higher than the previous four weeks.

With regard to Canadian oil producers, many companies have implied commodity prices at or near the forward curve and some a little bit higher such as Suncor Energy Inc. and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

 

We find this to be a useful exercise at times as a large divergence or disconnect either way can be indicative of a sector bottom like in mid-2012 or the peaks of early 2011 and mid-2014.

But today’s signals suggest more uncertainty and are creating a very challenging environment to make an investment decision in.

The bad news is that this may mean we have not yet seen the final capitulation usually needed before the start of a new bull cycle.  This is because high CAD-denominated forward prices, low interest rates and the large capital flow into the sector are providing an artificial sense of hope for marginal producers.

That said, there are still opportunities in the sector, but one has to work extra hard to mitigate the risks of uncertainty.

We continue to stay away from Alberta oil and gas producers as there is still way too much jurisdictional uncertainty. They could under perform like they did during the last royalty review and as a result have a higher cost of capital.

Instead, we look to own those well-funded, non-Alberta producers such as Crescent Point Energy Corp. that are looking to gain market share in this challenged environment.

Read more on protecting your portfolio and capital at hignnetworth.wordpress.com

Going offshore http://www.youroffshoremoney.com

 

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