Although oil stocks rank among the worst-hit equities in the wake of a pandemic-fueled demand collapse, their declining share of the stock market has been decades in the making.
In the early 1980s, energy stocks represented nearly 25% of the U.S. equity market capitalization . This has fallen to 2.7%. And with oil demand expected to continue falling, it’s hard to make the case that energy stocks are primed for a comeback.
Instead of a turnaround, the industry is bracing for a tidal wave of bankruptcies.
A Deloitte study released in June indicated that oil exploration and production firms stood to write down the value of their assets by up to $300 billion in the first quarter.
The outlook hasn’t brightened since then. As of early this month, 23 shale oil companies had already filed for bankruptcy.
Bulls might be tempted to argue that the creation of an effective COVID-19 vaccine – and the subsequent end of the pandemic – would bring relief to oil stocks with sufficient cash flow to ride out the crisis.
Don’t be fooled. Here are three reasons why the pain for oil stocks is not about to end anytime soon.
After the historic drop in demand earlier in the year, bulls expected oil consumption to recover as economies reopened. That optimism has begun to wane.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) lowered its oil consumption projections for both 2020 and 2021 today. The IEA predicts demand will plummet by 8.1 million barrels per day, equivalent to nearly 10% of daily world oil production in 2019.
Video: Oil demand hasn’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
OPEC is even less optimistic. The organization expects oil demand to fall by 9.1 billion barrels per day relative to last year. And this assumes the pandemic “will largely be contained globally.” Any further economic disruptions could hammer consumption even harder.
As for next year, OPEC expects “large uncertainties,” with a strong likelihood that demand will languish below pre-pandemic levels.
Further darkening the outlook for oil stocks, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden looks like a near-lock to win the 2020 election.
Compared to incumbent President Donald Trump, Biden’s policies are less friendly to fossil fuel companies.
Video: A Biden administration won’t help the bull case for oil stocks.
While Trump has promoted U.S. energy independence through increased extraction of fossil fuels, Biden’s plans favor increased investments in renewable energy .
If Biden wins in November, oil stocks will likely continue getting crushed no matter what the economy looks like.
Renewable energy was the only segment of the energy market to experience double-digit growth globally over the past decade. Consumption averaged an annual growth rate of 13.7%.
Analysts expect this blistering pace to persist in the years ahead. It’s going to come at the expense of fossil fuels as renewables eat further into sectors like transportation.
Take the vehicle market. While the share of electric cars is still below 10%, it’s exploding rapidly.
Even if global energy consumption recovers more quickly than expected, and even if Trump is re-elected, renewable energy is only going to keep putting pressure on fossil fuel demand.
Oil stocks were on life support long before the pandemic struck – but it may have put the final nail in the coffin.