What: August is a month that a lot of investors will likely want to forget, especially those owning shares in Marathon Oil Corporation (NYSE:MRO). The company's stock price was down over 30% at one point in the month before ending down more than 15%. Fueling the sell-off was earnings, analysts, and another wild ride for crude.
So what: Marathon Oil's stock stumbled early in the month after it reported second-quarter earnings on Aug. 5 that were about what analysts were expecting. The problem lies in the fact that those expectations were weak as the company reported a $0.23 per share loss on the quarter. This loss came despite a significant reduction in costs as the company attempted to strike a better balance between its cost structure and the oil price. That said, if there was a silver lining it was the fact that the company did reaffirm its guidance that calls for 5%-7% year-over-year production growth while at the same time trimming its capex budget from $3.5 billion to $3.3 billion.
Unfortunately, some analysts still weren't all that impressed with the company's performance nor its future outlook. BofA Merrill downgraded the stock from Buy to Neutral while slashing its price target from $36 all the way down to $20. It cited extended commodity price weakness as the reason for its downgrade of Marathon and a handful of other oil companies.
Speaking of oil prices, crude was very weak through most of the month as it was down more than double digits at one point before rallying at the end of the month. This volatility is creating a lot of uncertainty as the industry really seems to be bracing for a future where oil remains lower for longer.
Now what: Marathon Oil seems to be embracing that mantra as it is considering another meaningful reduction to its capex budget next year, which would have a big impact on its ability to grow production. Needless to say, oil prices will need to deliver a meaningful rally before oil companies consider returning to growth mode, which is what's needed to rally their stock prices.