Shares of Weatherford International (NYSE: WFT) continued their wild ride on Thursday, tumbling nearly 12% by 10:30 a.m. EDT. As has been the case recently, shares of the troubled oil field service company plunged even though there wasn't any apparent news-driven catalyst.
If anything tripped up Weatherford International today, it was the price of crude oil, which has taken a breather. After enjoying their best quarterly performance in years, crude prices cooled off today, falling slightly less than 1% by midmorning. That follows yesterday's dip due to an unexpected rise in U.S. oil storage levels. A slump in oil prices would theoretically be bad news for Weatherford since it could potentially cause oil producers to cut spending on new projects. Though with oil up sharply this year, producers are more likely to boost spending than reduce it.
Instead, today's sell-off is likely the result of profit taking since Weatherford's shares had rebounded by more than 35% through yesterday due to higher oil prices and some bright spots in its financial results. However, while the company appears as if it's slowly turning around its troubled operations, it still has a long way to go since its balance sheet has significantly more debt than those of rivals. Though the company did recently chip away at that number by selling some more drilling rigs for $32 million, which completed a multistage process that brought in $287.5 million in cash for debt reduction.
Weatherford International is working on getting out from underneath a nearly suffocating level of debt, which stood at more than $7 billion at the end of last year. While it's making progress on its turnaround plan, the company has a long road ahead. That's why shares will likely remain hypervolatile -- especially on any shift in oil prices -- until the company's financials are back on solid ground.