• 11 hours Is $90 Oil Possible? An Interview With Jay Park
  • 1 day Billions Of Dollars Are Flooding Into The Flying Taxi Space
  • 1 day Is This The Most Important Energy Project Of 2020?
  • 2 days Startups Are Dying To Give You A Better Death
  • 2 days U.S. Restaurants Are Struggling With Rising Labor Costs
  • 3 days The Banking Bonanza Is Just Getting Started
  • 3 days How The Trade War Ceasefire Will Impact The Energy Industry
  • 4 days Who Is The Most Dangerous Person On The Internet?
  • 4 days SoftBank Sees First Quarterly Loss In 14 Years
  • 6 days Prepare For An Oil Glut In 2020
  • 7 days Why A Strong Yuan Is A Promising Sign For The Trade War
  • 8 days What Would You Sacrifice For A Debt-Free Life?
  • 8 days Shareholders Urge Major Bank To Stop Funding Fossil Fuel Companies
  • 9 days Tariffs Are Causing A Slowdown In U.S. Manufacturing
  • 9 days The Great Silicon Valley Migration Has Begun
  • 10 days 3 Oil Stocks Paying Out Promising Dividends In 2020
  • 10 days How Fractional Trading Is Democratizing the Stock Markets
  • 10 days Why Smart Money Is Looking To Short Aramco
  • 11 days Gold Major Looks To Hike Dividends By 79%
  • 11 days Three Reasons Precious Metals Are On The Rise
What's Behind The Global EV Sales Slowdown?

What's Behind The Global EV Sales Slowdown?

An economic slowdown in many…

Is The Bull Market On Its Last Legs?

Is The Bull Market On Its Last Legs?

This aging bull market may…

Another Retail Giant Bites The Dust

Another Retail Giant Bites The Dust

Forever 21 filed for Chapter…

Oilprice.com

Oilprice.com

Writer, OilPrice.com

Information/Articles and Prices on a wide range of commodities: We have assembled a team of experienced writers to provide you with information on Crude Oil,…

Contact Author

  1. Home
  2. Markets
  3. Other

Could Falling Oil Prices Spark a Financial Crisis?

The oil and gas boom in the United States was made possible by the extensive credit afforded to drillers. Not only has financing come from company shareholders and traditional banks, but hundreds of billions of dollars have also come fromjunk-bond investors looking for high returns.

Junk-bond debt in energy has reached $210 billion, which is about 16 percent of the $1.3 trillion junk-bond market. That is a dramaticrise from just 4 percent that energy debt represented 10 years ago.

As is the nature of the junk-bond market, lots of money flowed to companies with much riskier drilling prospects than, say, the oil majors. Maybe drillers were venturing into an uncertain shale play; maybe they didn't have a lot of cash on hand or were a small startup. Whatever the case may be, there is a reason that they couldn't offer "investment grade" bonds. In orderto tap the bond market, these companies had to pay a hefty interest rate.

For investors, this offers the opportunity for high yield, which is why hundreds of billions of dollars helped finance companies in disparate parts of the country looking to drill in shale. When oil prices were high and production was relentlesslyclimbing, energy related junk bonds looked highly profitable.

But junk bonds pay high yields because they are high risk, and with oil prices dipping below $70 per barrel, companies that offered junk bonds may not have the revenue to pay back bond holders, potentially leading to steeplosses in the coming weeks and months.

The situation will compound itself if oil prices stay low. The junk bond market may begin to shun risky drilling companies, cutting off access to capital. Without the ability to finance drilling, smaller or more indebted oil companies may not have a future. The Wall Street Journal profiled a few fund managers who are beginning to steer clear of smaller oil companies. Moody's Investors Service downgraded the oil and gas sector on November 25 to a "negative" outlook becauseof falling oil prices.

If oil prices stay at $65 per barrel for three years, 40 percent of all energy junk bonds could be looking at default, according to a recent JP Morgan estimate. While that is a long-term and uncertain scenario, the pain is being felt today. The FT reported that a third of energy debt issued in the junk-bond market iscurrently in "distressed" territory.

That begs the question; could a shakeout of the oil industry spark a broader financial crisis? Banks and other financial institutions could be overly exposed to energy debt. The Telegraph paints a dire scenario in which the debt bubble bursts because of low oil prices, leading to a cascading 2008-style financial collapse, atleast in the junk bond market.

Such a scenario may be a bit overblown. Persistently low interest rates keep demand for junk bonds high, meaning oil companies will probably be able to restructure their debt and continue to access capital. Also, drillers will not immediately face an existential crisis because many have hedgedthemselves, locking in prices for a certain amount of production.

But a junk bond crisis could become more likely if oil prices stay low for an extended period of time. Once a few companies begin to default, the problem could quickly spread. Another variable is how quickly the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates, which could significantly affect the attractivenessof the junk bond market.

Local and regional banks could be highly exposed as well, especially if energy loans make up a large share of their lending portfolio. The Wall Street Journal pointed out that banks like Oklahoma-based BOK Financial - with 19 percent of its loan portfolio made up of energy loans - could be the most vulnerable. Moreover, an economic downturn in regions that depend heavily on energy, such as Texas or North Dakota, could see a broader decline in demand for loans of all kinds.That could add to the pain for local banks.

Low oil prices are not just a problem for oil companies. Investment funds, hungry for yield in a low interest rate environment, have poured money into oil and gas. To be sure, we are far from a crisis at this point, but if oilprices don't rebound, a lot of people are going to lose a lot of money.

 


Source: http://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/Could-Falling-Oil-Prices-Spark-A-Financial-Crisis.html

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

 

Back to homepage

Leave a comment

Leave a comment