2 Oil Stocks to Dump Right Now

Seasonality is on oil bears' side, but crude's trajectory likely depends on Thursday's OPEC meeting

by Andrea Kramer

Published on Nov 28, 2017 at 3:34 PM

U.S. stocks have been on a tear in 2017, with the major market indexes pacing for an eighth straight monthly gain and hitting record highs today. However, some stocks could sit out a "Santa Claus rally" in December, if past is prologue. Below, we'll take a look at one exchange-traded fund (ETF) and two oil stocks you may want to avoid in the short term, especially if the Nov. 30 meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members doesn't bode well for crude prices: the PowerShares DB Oil Fund (DBO), Newfield Exploration Co. (NYSE:NFX), and Schlumberger Limited (NYSE:SLB).

Oil Fund Averages Steepest December Loss

Of the ETFs we track, DBO tends to fare the worst in the month of December, averaging a loss of 2.21% over the past decade, according to data from Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White. What's more, the fund has ended the month higher just half the time over the past 10 years.

etf returns december

DBO shares have been on a tear since their June bottom, rallying nearly 33%. The ETF was last seen trading at $9.79 -- up 0.1% on the day, and within a chip-shot of its Jan. 3 high of $9.91. Further, DBO recently turned positive year-to-date for the first time nearly all year. However, another 2.21% drop from current levels would put the fund around $9.57 -- back in the red year-to-date.

NFX, SLB Among Worst Stocks for December

Meanwhile, several oil and oil services stocks pepper the list of worst stocks to own in December, historically. NFX has averaged a monthly loss of 3.05%, looking at December data over the past decade, and ended higher just 40% of the time. Likewise, SLB stock also sports a win rate of just 40%, and suffered an average December loss of 2.25%.

worst stocks december

NFX stock has rebounded since its mid-August low of $24.41, but has run into a wall in the $30-$31 area. This neighborhood is home to the equity's descending 200-day moving average, and represents a 23.6% Fibonacci retracement from NFX stock's 2017 high to its low. However, Newfield Exploration shares -- currently trading around $29.91 -- are still down 26% year-to-date.

Nevertheless, 13 out of 20 analysts maintain "buy" or better ratings on the equity. Should NFX stock once again drop in December, a round of downgrades could exacerbate seasonal selling pressure.

Meanwhile, even as crude oil prices recently flirted with two-year highs, Schlumberger stock just touched an annual low of $61.02 on Nov. 16. The security has dropped more than 25% in 2017, and was last seen trading around $62.29. As with NFX, though, analysts remain optimistic, with 16 of 26 doling out "buy" or better endorsements -- putting SLB at risk of downgrades.

An unwinding of optimism in the options pits could also weigh on SLB.  At the International Securities Exchange (ISE), Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE), and NASDAQ OMX PHLX (PHLX), the stock's 10-day call/put volume ratio of 2.72 is higher than 89% of all other readings from the past year. In other words, options buyers have picked up bullish Schlumberger bets over bearish at a faster-than-usual clip during the past two weeks.

OPEC, Russia in Focus

In conclusion, traders may want to avoid or short DBO, NFX, and SLB, considering the oil names tend to underperform in December. However, the oil sector's near-term momentum will likely be determined by the aforementioned OPEC meeting taking place on Thursday, where the cartel and Russia will decide whether to extend recent production cuts. In addition, commodities traders are watching the recently shuttered Keystone pipeline, expected to reopen at reduced pressure today.

For stocks that could rally next month, consider Nvidia (NVDA) and these other 24 historical December outperformers.


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