What happened

Euronav (EURN -0.28%). DHT Holdings (DHT -1.11%). Frontline Ltd (FRO -3.67%). Scorpio Tankers (NYSE: STNG). Nordic American Tankers (NAT).

These are just a few of the oil tanker shipper stocks that are rebounding this morning alongside a just-as-widespread rebound in the fortunes of oil producer stocks today, after Monday's market sell-off. As of 2:30 p.m. EDT, shares of Antwerp, Belgium-based Euronav are up 11.5%, and Monaco-based Scorpio Tankers has gained 23%. Bermuda-based DHT, Frontline, and Nordic American are up 16%, 25%, and 25%, respectively.

But if you ask me, this is kind of the opposite of the reaction one would expect.

Oil tanker foredeck

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

I mean, think about it. Saudi Arabia cut prices on its crude oil by $6, $7, even $8 a barrel yesterday. Oil markets promptly fell apart, with prices on Brent crude tumbling more than 25% between Friday's close and Monday's open. Oil got...a whole lot cheaper, and while that's bad news for companies that produce oil, if there's one thing bargain hunters know, it's that when things get cheaper, you buy more of them.

And that means oil shippers need to ship more of them.

And thus oil shippers should profit more from those lower oil prices.

Now what

Today oil prices are rebounding. The cost of a barrel of Brent is up 6% from yesterday, back above the $36 level. WTI crude is selling for more than $33. More expensive oil, it seems to me, would actually be kind of bad news for companies -- and stocks -- involved in shipping oil, because it will temper demand for the product.

So how do we make sense of today's seemingly perverse reaction? Here's a theory: Yesterday it kind of looked as if the world were ending -- and it certainly looked that way to anyone who owned an oil stock, as worries mounted that oil would get so cheap they'd go out of business. Of course, if that did happen, those oil companies that disappeared wouldn't be shipping any oil anymore, and that would be bad news for oil shippers.

Maybe what we're seeing today is investors in oil tanker operators breathing a sigh of relief. Maybe, if oil prices go down -- but not too much -- that's actually the Goldilocks scenario that oil tanker investors should be hoping for.