What: Oil prices continued their wild ride today, this time to the upside. That rally sent oil stocks higher, with Ultra Petroleum (UPL), QEP Resources (QEP), EXCO Resources (NYSE: XCO), SM Energy (SM 0.62%), and Whiting Petroleum (WLL) all surging by more than 10% by 2:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
So what: Today's move in crude, which closed up 3.7% to just over $31 per barrel, came after a report said that OPEC was ready to "cooperate" to stabilize the oil market. That report was based on comments from Kuwait's OPEC governor, Nawal al-Fuzaia, who said:
OPEC is willing to cooperate with producers outside the group if they show they are serious about cooperating with OPEC. Non-OPEC producers keep on making statements that they are willing to cooperate, but the reality is different.
It is, however, worth noting that these comments aren't anything the organization hasn't said before. In fact, the only difference this time is comments by non-OPEC member Oman, which recently said it would cut its production by up to 10% if OPEC and other non-producers joined it. Still, Oman isn't enough; OPEC likely needs a resistant Russia to join the efforts before it would consider cutting.
In other words, there's really no logical reason these stocks moved up so sharply today, because it appears very unlikely that a coordinated production cut is on the way. That likely means it will be a while before the price of oil rebounds back to where these companies need it to be. That price, at least for Whiting Petroleum, is $50 a barrel in 2016, which is what oil needs to average in order for the company to be cash flow break-even.
Meanwhile, the others on this list -- Ultra Petroleum, QEP Resources, EXCO Resources and SM Energy -- need oil well above even that level in order to deliver sustainable growth, especially in the case of Ultra Petroleum and EXCO Resources, both of which have a lot of deleveraging to do before they can even begin to pursue growth.
Now what: The price of oil continues to be very volatile, moving without any real substantive news, and more often than not taking a bunch of oil stocks with it. That volatility isn't showing any signs of abating, with the market reading into everything these days.