What: July was an abysmal month for Whiting Petroleum Corp. (NYSE:WLL) investors as the stock cratered 35%. Fueling the slide was renewed weakness in oil prices as well as a surprising reversal from the company's management team.
So what: The price of crude oil plunged nearly 20% in July to less than $50 per barrel, which took a lot of oil stocks down with it, including Whiting Petroleum. The reason for the company's crude-inspired slide is that its profitability is very correlated to the price of crude. That was clearly evident in its second-quarter earnings report, where earnings plunged 97% from the year-ago quarter as a result of much lower oil prices.
With the oil price resuming its slide in late July, it forced Whiting Petroleum's management team to rethink its plans for the balance of the year. As a result, it cut its capex budget from $2.3 billion to $2.15 billion just two weeks after it had increased it to that level from $2 billion. This surprising reversal caught investors off-guard as it showed that the company really doesn't have a handle on where the price of oil is heading in the near term.
Now what: Given how important crude prices are to Whiting Petroleum's profitability, it's no surprise to see the stock slide along with oil. It also didn't help matters that the company appears to have no idea where crude oil is headed, which is what the quick reversal on the capex budget suggests. This is leaving investors with few reasons to own the stock at the moment. If even the management team doesn't know where oil prices might be going, it isn't exactly a bullish sign for the future.