The price for WTI crude oil fell below $83/barrel momentarily today as the market takes another shellacking, down around 200 points just before noon. Both crude and the wider market are making a comeback effort, but today’s overall mood has been decidedly black.
Just as we tried to look at the effects of a crude price of $120/barrel a couple of weeks ago, today is a good day to look at what effect a crude price of $80/barrel might have. First of all, it would be very good news for consumers who might anticipate gasoline prices around $3.25/gallon, at least briefly. And US drivers need some cheering up.
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An $80/barrel price would definitely be bad for big oil companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM), Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX), and ConocoPhillips Corp. (NYSE: COP). Refiners, however could do better, especially those able to get WTI crude. US refiners situated along the Gulf Coast are essentially tied to Brent prices, while refiners further from the coast can get their hands on the cheaper WTI. That allows these companies to take advantage of the crude differential to achieve more margin.
Of the refiners, Valero Energy Corp. (NYSE: VLO) is most closely tied to the Gulf Coast and higher priced crude. Marathon Petroleum Corp. (NYSE: MPC), Tesoro Corp. (NYSE: TSO), and Western Refining Inc. (NYSE: WNR) all have more plants outside the Gulf Coast region, and thus, a better chance to take advantage of wider refining margins.
Another industry that should do well with $80/barrel crude is the airlines business. United Continental Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: UAL), Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL), AMR Corp. (NYSE: AMR), and Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV), among others, have been slammed by high fuel costs. Provided anyone can still afford to fly, airline fuel costs will fall and fares may follow.
Other transportation industries that use large amounts of fuel are shipping and railroads. Shipping companies like DryShips Inc. (NASDAQ: DRYS), Diana Shipping Inc. (NYSE: DSX), and Genco Shipping & Trading Ltd. (NYSE: GNK) could catch a break from lower fuel costs. Unfortunately, over-capacity in dry bulk carriers could hold down any gain that might come from cheaper fuel.
Railroads might fare better. Union Pacific Corp. (NYSE: UNP), CSX Corp. (NYSE: CSX), and Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE: NSC) have been moving a lot more goods these days, and lower diesel fuel costs will make these stocks among the best able to take advantage of cheaper fuel. Loads are up, rates are up, and fuel is getting cheaper. That’s a potent combination.
Other transportation winners could include FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) and United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE: UPS), both of which are shipping more these days and have taken a hit as fuel prices were rising.
Finally, agriculture-related firms like fertilizer companies and machinery makers could get a boost from lower fuel costs. Ag companies like Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE: ADM), Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (NYSE: POT), Mosaic Co. (NYSE: MOS), CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: CF), and Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) all benefit from lower fuel costs in one way or another.
Of all the companies we’ve looked at here, only FedEx, UPS, and CF Industries is showing a gain today. CF Industries raised its annual dividend today from $0.40/share to $1.60/share, on top of a blowout quarterly earnings report. CF Industries’ shares are up more than 70% in the past 12 months, and the company expects the rest of 2011 to be just as strong as the first half.