Oil prices are falling to session lows as the OPEC meeting in Vienna continues behind closed doors. You can read our update from this morning here. As we mentioned in this earlier note, investors are disappointed in the reported nine-month extension as many were hoping for deeper cuts in addition to the extension.
Reports thus far today appear to indicate that Nigeria and Libya will continue to be exempt from production cuts -- both countries are expected to continue to ramp output in their efforts to restore supplies hampered by militant conflicts. Other reports have highlighted potential rising tensions with Iran, whose oil minister may have left the ongoing meeting on testy terms.
Although prices always tend to be choppy when a meeting of this magnitude is in session, the sharp reversal from this morning's upturn is clearly significant as prices have fallen below the $50 threshold. Even though there were no indications prior to the meeting that OPEC could deepen the cuts, investors, unjustifiably, hoped that OPEC leaders would push for such an agreement. Today, we are seeing the disappointment of reality settle in as a nine-month extension was already mostly baked into oil prices at around the $51 level.
Given the breakdown below $50 and investors increasingly skeptical that an extension will serve its purpose, we would not be surprised to see oil prices drop lower into the mid-$40s in the short term. This is consistent with our view that oil will trade in its established range, oscillating from the low to high ends as different news emerges. With that said, we wanted to provide members with the levels we are watching, specifically for the portfolio. While we believe all are attractive here for the long-term-minded investor (we maintain our One ratings), we also recognize that many may have a shorter-term view on oil.
Lastly, we want to remind investors that catching a bottom is virtually impossible, other than with a little luck involved. From a holistic view (not just in this situation), we would rather see a sign of a positive turn before buying back into the names as opposed to trying to perfectly time a bottom. We would prefer to buy a stock slightly up from the bottom, with confidence that the near-term consolidation has evaporated, rather than buy the name at (or around) that same level but prior to the bottom, where we have not yet confirmed a turnaround.
For Apache (APA) , we are watching around the $46-$47 level for our next purchase. We have room to add (less than 4% position), but we also recognize that the stock did not bounce on the last selloff until those levels (when we purchased here) and there could be more commodity weakness (even though the selloff in these names is way overdone compared to the movements in oil prices).
On Cimarex (XEC) , we will likely await $110 or below as we recognize that this mid-cap name can trade in volatile fashion. We continue to view Magellan Midstream (MMP) as a yield play (4.75% distribution yield at these levels vs. 10-year Treasuries at 2.25%) and we view the pullback as unsubstantiated -- we are watching around $70-$71. As for Schlumberger (SLB) , we are watching below the $69 level. SLB is trading below where it was when oil was in the $30s, a decline that we view as significantly underappreciating SLB's best-in-class cash generation, technological leadership, advancing domestic presence and international position for the longer-term recovery.