The energy industry was hit hard on Thursday by a number of factors from falling prices to a speculation about higher interest rates. Markets broadly were down, but there were some notable energy stocks moving.
Shares of Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY) fell as much as 4.9%, Cheniere Energy (NYSEMKT: LNG) dropped 6.2%, SolarEdge Technologies (NASDAQ: SEDG) fell 5.2%, and Plug Power (NASDAQ: PLUG) plunged 8% on Thursday. At 3:30 p.m. ET the stocks were down 2.9%, 3.7%, 2.9%, and 3.7%, respectively.
In data released today, the third-quarter GDP estimate was revised up from 2.9% to 3.2%, indicating a better economy. New jobless claims also fell to 211,000 for the week ended Dec. 10, the lowest level since September. These two strong economic indicators are making the market speculate that the Federal Reserve will keep raising interest rates and keep them elevated longer than investors would like. Stocks are down broadly as a result.
WTI crude oil fell 0.2% to $78.12 to end the day but had been down more earlier in the day. Natural gas was even worse, falling 5.4% to $5.04 per MMBtu, which will hurt oil and gas company earnings.
Well-known investor David Tepper didn’t help matters, saying he would lean short on both stocks and bonds. Tepper is an influential voice, and his comments only added fuel to the declines today.
Falling commodity prices don’t impact renewable energy companies like SolarEdge and Plug Power directly, but rising interest rates do. In the U.S., the 10-year rate was up one basis point to 3.67%, and if the Federal Reserve raises rates, that could go higher. This is a headwind for renewable energy investments, which often have high upfront costs and pay off over the course of decades.
Energy stocks are responding to macro concerns that have stocks falling broadly today. But the industry has really changed in the last few years as companies have become more focused on generating high returns from capital investments. So, lower stock prices present a buying opportunity for investors willing to wait for cash flow to increase.
In renewables, the challenge may be a little different. The market will likely expand as renewable energy costs have fallen and governments around the world have pushed for more local, clean energy. But it’ll make it harder for projects to make economic sense if interest rates do continue to rise.
I think the reaction today is very short-term in nature. A strong economy is good for energy demand, no matter what happens to interest rates. The four companies I highlighted are leaders in their space and will see broad tailwinds as the industry expands. This is a buying opportunity if you have a long-term time horizon, although stocks could be very volatile in the short term as the market determines where rates and economic growth will shake out in 2023.
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