What: After yet another brutal day of trading, Ultra Petroleum (NASDAQ:UPL), California Resources Corporation (NYSE:CRC), and C&J Energy Services (NYSE:CJES) all were trading down more than 10% as of 3:15 pm today. Each have their own particular traits that made them move more than 10%, the real catalyst today was the slow creep of crude oil prices toward $30 per barrel.
So What: Very few energy companies benefit from oil & gas being this cheap. Ultra Petroleum, California Resources, and C&J Energy Services are definitely not in that crowd. As oil & gas producers, both California Resources and Ultra Petroleum have seen their cash flows dry up pretty rapidly as the commodity prices have crashed. C7J Energy Services may not directly be affected by prices, but as an oil services provider the lack of investment in new drilling activity has really hampered the top line.
Aside from falling so much over the past year or so that makes even a modest change in price a large percentage move, all three of these companies' shares are getting hit particularly hard because of some unfavorable downgrades. Earlier this week, Moody's downgraded both Ultra Petroleum's and California Resources' liquidity rating, a measure that looks at the company's ability to pay off short term payments with available cash. Without adequate liquidity, companies could struggle to pay off its current liabilities.
C&J, on the other hand, had its stock downgraded by Keybanc from Outperform to neutral. The rationalde behind Keybanc's downgrade was that continuing low oil prices might lead to C&J needing to downsize even further than it has already.
Now What: To anyone that has followed these stocks, hearing that Ultra and California are a little strapped for cash and C&J Energy Services is facing a very tough operating environment are nothing new. The downgrades from Moody's and Keybanc are just a reaffirmation of something most investors have been thinking for some time. The obvious cure for all three companies would be an uptick in oil & gas prices and, as a result, increased drilling activity. Until that happens, the story for all three of these companies will be the same.
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