What: Continental Resources (CLR) bowed under the pressure of oil prices and its own balance sheet last month, which combined to send its stock down 36.6%. That said, the company doesn't believe these weights will last forever, with its CEO ever bullish when it comes to oil prices.
So what: The price of domestic crude oil fell 11% last month to just over $37 per barrel. That puts it well below the $50 per barrel that Continental Resources needs in 2016 in order to operate at cash flow breakeven. Given the widening gap, it's causing the market to grow concerned that the company might need to use debt to fund the difference. While Continental Resources has said in the past that it wouldn't add debt, it really doesn't have many other viable options. The concern that the company might pile more debt on to its balance sheet is one of the reasons why its rating agency recently put it on review for a potential credit rating downgrade.
On a more positive note, rival Devon Energy (DVN -0.33%) paid $1.9 billion for a company operating in the STACK play of Oklahoma. It's a play that Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm has spoken very highly of in the past, saying that it could one day be as profitable as its acreage in the Bakken. That said, it is the play's near-term profit potential that caught Devon Energy's eye, with that acquisition earning a drilling return of around 40% at a $40 oil price. Those returns, however, could skyrocket to 140% if crude oil hits $70 a barrel, which is what Devon Energy is banking on.
A rebound in the price of crude is something that Hamm is also pinning his hopes on in 2016. He told CNBC in late December that he sees crude rebounding back to the per-barrel range of $40 to $50 in the first half of 2016. That said, Hamm has made confident proclamations on the price of crude before, with one of his bold bets costing the company $1 billion.
Now what: Continental Resources needs oil back above $50 a barrel so that its balance sheet doesn't deteriorate any further.