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Oil Above $30 a Barrel Sends Producer Stocks Surging Today (WLL, CRC, OAS, PWE)

By Tyler Crowe - Jan 22, 2016 at 11:05AM

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Bet you didn't think that sentence would be written, did you? But oil's 7% surge has lifted the stocks of Whiting Petroleum Corp., California Resources Corp., Oasis Petroleum Inc., and Penn West Petroleum Ltd.

What: After another rally in oil prices where a barrel of West Texas Intermediate is now back above $30 a barrel as of 11:00 a.m. ET, the usual suspects of oil and gas producers are rallying. Here's a quick list of companies whose shares have jumped more than 10% as of this writing:

Company % Price Change
Whiting Petroleum (WLL) 17%
California Resources Corp. (CRC) 18.2%
Oasis Petroleum (OAS) 14.7%
Penn West Petroleum (NYSE: PWE) 13.3%

So what: If you've been watching these stocks recently, you've probably noticed that they seem to move by double digits almost every day. In the past month alone, all four have gone as high as up 25% to down 45% in a very short period of time. So when the price of oil jumps more than 7% in a day, you can almost assume that they will move by that much or more. 

They just happen to move a lot with oil prices because they all have very bloated balance sheets. With oil this low, there are a lot of questions as to whether they can meet all of their debt and capital obligations. 

CompanyDebt to CapitalNet Debt (Debt-Cash) to EBITDACurrent Ratio
Whiting Petroleum 48.9% 3.5x 0.73x
California Resources Corp. 60.2% 5.9x 0.8x
Oasis Petroleum  44.9% 2.5x 0.87x
Penn West Petroleum 30.1% 4.2x 0.72x

Another thing that is dragging down Whiting Petroleum and Oasis is that most of their operations are tied to the Bakken region of North Dakota. Oil from this region has been selling for a pretty decent discount to the national benchmarks because of the transportation costs to demand hubs such as the Gulf Coast. The same could be said for Penn West Petroleum since its production comes from Canada, but the lower prices are slightly offset by the exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian dollars.

California Resources is probably in the most trouble of all the companies mentioned here. When it was spun off from Occidental Petroleum, it was loaded up with a bunch of debt because it had a pretty stable cash flow from its steam and waterflood productions that could make it possible. However, that plan was based on oil prices being much higher than what they are today.

Now what: It's a bit of a stretch to say that oil's climb to over $30 a barrel is the antidote to these companies' malaise, so investors shouldn't get too excited about today's stock moves. Instead, it's probably best to wait and see what their earnings reports say in the coming weeks. Only then will they know how long they can last with oil at these low prices before some more drastic measures must be taken to shore up their shaky balance sheets.

Tyler Crowe has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him at or on Twitter @TylerCroweFool.

The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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