The Dow Left These 2 Stocks Behind

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped almost 100 points Friday as the probability of Spain's banks getting bailed out grew, capping off its best week of the year. While I see all this eventually ending badly, some stocks were doing worse now, going in the other direction and falling by nearly double-digit percentages. Let's see whether they had good reason to drop, as panic-fueled declines can sometimes make for excellent buying opportunities.

A revolving door
You'd think companies would have their employment agreements with top management ironed out before the executive accepts the job and the company announces it to the world. While most might do that, apparently ATP Oil & Gas (Nasdaq: ATPG  ) is the exception to that rule as its newly hired CEO -- awarded the job on June 1 -- quit six days later because the two sides couldn't agree on a contract. And the 1 million shares of ATP stock he was going to buy as a condition of getting the top spot were also rescinded.

With more than $2 billion in debt and just $225 million in cash, there's little wonder why investors are concerned about the financial viability of the independent energy specialist. Its shares are down 28% year to date and more than 68% over the past year. It's still suffering from declining production rates and experienced delays last quarter in bringing on new production as well as higher capital costs, all of which conspired to lower its cash flows. So it probably should not come as much of a surprise that it can't get its management act together, either.

Although much analyst and investor attention is focused on ATP's concessions in the Gulf of Mexico, it has other international projects, such as its Shimshon well in the Levant Basin off the coast of Israel, which Fool analyst Sean Williams sees holding a lot of promise. There were many who thought Zion Oil & Gas was nutty for trying to find oil in Israel based on biblical interpretations of scripture, but it always seemed plausible that with countries on all sides of the nation-state having oil, Israel would have it, too.

Motley Fool blogger cris vicari recently noted that Noble Energy discovered large gas reserves in the Tamar and Leviathan fields off of Israel's coast, and ATP's partner in the project, Isramco (Nasdaq: ISRL  ) , received an independent reservoir engineering evaluation and the prospects for success look good.

That is if it can get its production program in order and stop the executive suite's revolving door from spinning. Any bit of good news could really get ATP's shares moving, though, since, as CAPS member PixelFreakz notes, nearly half of its float is sold short. A squeeze would send the stock soaring, but it would be up to the oil and gas company to maintain those gains by building a better company.

Tell me on the ATP Oil & Gas CAPS page or in the comments section below if you agree its international operations are a cause for optimism, then add its stock to the Fool's free stock-tracking service to see if it can strike it rich.

Loss of energy
The fallout from the Obama administration's animus against coal continues to claim new victims. In April, Patriot Coal (NYSE: PCX  ) idled a Kentucky coal mine and since the beginning of the year has let go 1,000 people. On Friday, it reacted to the news that Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR  ) was shuttering four mines, also in Kentucky, while idling four additional mines operated by others. It blamed mild weather, but also the reduction in demand from utilities using coal. Patriot dropped almost 10%, interesting since Alpha itself was down less than 3% on the day.

The EPA issued regulations that encourage utilities to switch from coal to natural gas. While coal prices are at record lows, so are gas prices, so making the switch to remain compliant makes sense for them. Unfortunately for coal miners like Patriot and Alpha, they'll be indefinitely stuck with reduced demand. American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP  ) is just the latest utility considering shutting down a coal-fired plant because of the burdensome EPA regulations. After initially planning on installing scrubbers at the Big Sandy facility in Kentucky -- are we seeing a pattern here? -- it withdrew its request as it considers what course to take.

Last month, Patriot reported it was in talks with its lenders about restructuring its debt, though details were few. The coal miner also said one of its customers may default on its obligations and said it was cutting the guidance it gave just the month before that production would be lower by 1 million tons.

With such gloomy developments surrounding the coal miner, I rated it on CAPS to underperform the broad indexes. For the foreseeable future I don't see how it gains ground, but All-Star member Chemdawg is hopeful low coal prices will upset the current "demand curve":

you either have to figure that they are going out of business ..or that they won't ..if they don't then you would have a hard time arguing that PCX under 2 bucks a share isn't worth the risk... reversion to mean...

Have your say on whether Patriot can survive the war on coal in the comments section below, then add Patriot Coal to your watchlist to see whether anymore shoes drop to send it down further.

Ready for a resurrection
These stocks might be in turmoil, but if you think the energy sector is still the place to be, check out this explosive free report from The Motley Fool on the energy industry and its best prospects. It's free but only available for a limited time, so click here today.

Fool contributor Rich Duprey holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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