Why one Wall Street firm thinks coronavirus is a ‘true black swan’ for oil and energy markets
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The oil market has been dealt a shock amid the coronavirus outbreak that’s upended demand and shaken energy outlooks on Wall Street.
The blow of coronavirus to oil and energy markets may be the “first black swan of the decade,” according to a note to clients sent Monday from Ned Davis Research.
A “black swan” is a rare and unpredictable event that can have extreme consequences.
China’s oil demand has fallen an estimated 2 million to 3 million barrels per day during the crisis, according to the note by analyst Warren Pies.
Depending on how the situation is resolved, “the oil market is looking down the barrel at no demand growth for the calendar year, and outright demand contraction is now on the table,” Pies wrote.
Ned Davis Research downgraded its oil outlook in January and thinks that it’s likely that crude oil and energy equities “will see more weakness before this is over.”
On Tuesday, oil markets went into full contango, which is when each later dated future contract is less expensive than the previous one, the opposite of how futures usually sit.
What this signal indicates is that markets are worried about oversupply amid the impact of coronavirus and doubt OPEC’s willingness to support prices.
Pies warned investors to “resist the urge to become ‘epidemiological tourists’” by forecasting the spread of coronavirus, comparing it to the 2003 SARS outbreak, or trying to determine if the Chinese government is hiding the severity of the epidemic.
Instead, he said to heed objective indicators, remain flexible, and manage risk. Because this decline is demand-driven rather than supply-driven, some old trades such as “buy refiners” is unlikely to work, and make “broad investment in E&P stocks untenable,” Pies wrote.
He suggested that investors look to deploy capital in midstream energy companies, as “this perfect storm could create an excellent opportunity to gain exposure to this group later in the year.”