What happened

Shares of U.S. onshore exploration and production company Centennial Resource Development (NASDAQ:CDEV) advanced as much as 9.5% in early trading on Dec. 10. There wasn't anything big out of the company, but one Wall Street research shop provided an update that likely excited investors.

So what

Centennial Resource Development is a small and highly leveraged energy company. That has contributed to often volatile trading in recent months, as company and industry news have left investors vacillating between buying and selling moods. The big story is that sustainably higher oil prices will make it much easier for Centennial to muddle through the current energy sector downturn. The problem is that people have very different opinions of what's going to happen from here.

An oil well and two men writing in notebooks in the foreground.

Image source: Getty Images.

KeyBanc, for example, raised its target price for Centennial from $1 per share to $2. The stock is trading hands in the $1.80 per share range at this point. KeyBanc also maintained its overweight call on the stock. Investors generally like when analysts are upbeat, so the stock rallied today. That's great, for now. Other analysts aren't quite as positive, so there's no clear consensus and a less favorable update could send the stock lower just like KeyBanc's call sent it higher. Indeed, it's a distinct possibility that energy prices could linger at a low level, which would make life much harder for Centennial Resource Development.   

Now what

The energy sector is working through a material supply/demand imbalance thanks to the impact of the economic shutdowns being used to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Centennial Resource Development's future depends greatly on how, and how quickly, that issue resolves. Nobody really knows what's going to happen. At this point, the only thing investors can really be certain of is continued volatility. One day's price change or one analyst price call doesn't alter the bigger backstory.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.