Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
The holidays are upon us, folks. It's time to spend some time with your family, remember what's truly important in life, and max out your credit card to show your love. Wall Street believes in you, the consumer, and continued to exude this confidence by sending stocks to new record highs. The S&P 500 Index (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) added 4 points, or 0.3%, to end at 1,807 Wednesday. Unfortunately for investors, Wall Street wasn't equally confident in all corners of the market, and one area in particular stood out as a loser today.
Energy stocks were torpid Wednesday, rivaling the sluggishness of that family uncle -- you know the one -- who engorges himself with turkey, sinks into the couch for the afternoon to watch football, and leaves a permanent imprint on the furniture.
Oil and gas, specifically, was the market's worst sector. Despite mounting a modest comeback yesterday, shares of Newfield Exploration (NYSE:NFX) fell 4.1% today, as investors continued to sell on the news of this weekend's international nuclear agreement with Iran. Crude oil prices slumped 1.5% today, closing at $92.30 a barrel, a level not seen since May. In addition to easing Middle East tensions, crude oil supplies in the U.S. far exceeded expectations.
Shares of Pioneer Natural Resources (NYSE:PXD), already facing headwinds because of declining oil prices, slumped 2.5% today, continuing to fall in after-hours trading. The company revealed just after market close that adverse winter weather in Texas "significantly affected the Company's production and drilling operations" in three different locations. Pioneer Natural Resources cautioned that it's too early to tell what the hit will be to its financials, but impaired production is a virtual certainty. Today the saying rings true: "Pioneers get slaughtered; settlers prosper."
Finally, Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY) stock dropped 2.5% today, another unfortunate victim of the secular sell-off in oil. Thankfully for investors, Occidental Petroleum's name is deceiving, since the company also deals in natural gas, which shot up Wednesday. The price of natural gas, an energy alternative that has grown increasingly popular in recent years because of its cleanliness, abundance, and affordability, jumped more than 2.7% as supply fell. Investors in today's three worst S&P names may have taken a hit today, but the global demand for energy isn't doing anything but increasing, and long-term oil bulls shouldn't be scared away by the temporary decline in these names.