Crude oil’s bear market is highlighting the haves and have nots among U.S. shale producers, with the stronger promising to keep pumping even as prospects dim for some of their financially strapped peers.
Crude prices have dropped more than 20 percent since late February, in part because of rising U.S. shale production that is offsetting OPEC’s efforts to tame global stockpiles. On Wednesday, prices fell more than 2 percent to $42.58 after touching a 10-month low during the day.
The price tumble has dragged down shares of oil and natural gas producers and raised the specter of trims to drilling budgets set when oil was trading around $50 a barrel. Oil producers’ average capital spending was previously projected to rise by 50 percent this year over depressed levels of 2016.
Analysts say prices that stick between $40 and $45 a barrel could trigger some companies to quietly scale back planned drilling activities. But industry-wide, major changes to capital spending budgets likely will not be announced until later this summer as quarterly results are released.
“Companies will try to push that back as long as possible,” said Dan Katzenberg, an oil industry analyst at Baird.
A Wall Street sell-off of energy stocks largely has spared those shale producers with strong balance sheets, hedged production and significant operations in the Permian basin. Investors are treating them as likely not only to survive but thrive at below $45 a barrel.
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