Is it time to buy the oils? I keep hearing that over and over again and I am going to give you a severe judgment. The answer is NO. Why? Because there was a time to buy them and that time is now past.
We got a lot of chatter today about buying the oils because we now have seen the report from Exxon Mobil (XOM), the big daddy of the group, and it wasn't all that weak. In fact, the company's 2% production growth was superlative and surprised me. I had begun to believe that Exxon just couldn't deliver on that keen line. Oil giant Conoco (COP) also reported and that wasn't so weak either, so some traders are saying the worst is over.
That I agree with.
But to equate the "bottom" in oils with Exxon is to overlook what's been happening for months in the patch and to forget that we got a bottom and that was forged in both bravery and common sense.
Oil, the commodity, is now poised in the high $50s after plunging to as low at $43 when Kinder Morgan (KMI) CEO Rich Kinder came on Mad Money and said oil had gotten too low and belonged at a higher level. Kinder does nothing idle. At the same time as his appearance, he shelled out $3 billion to buy the Hiland Partners pipeline from Harold Hamm, the CEO of Continental Resources (CLR) who, when oil was double that $43 price, had come on Mad Money and called a bottom in crude that didn't stand.
Hamm's Continental had also put its money where its mouth is, taking off all it hedges against oil plummeting at those same high prices, which, of course, turned out to be way too early. Plus, Hamm had to pay his ex-wife a billion dollars as part of a divorce settlement so, while he remains one of the richest men in the country, Hamm may have needed that $3 billion more than most. Either that or he was the ultimate buy-high-sell-low player, the opposite of what Kinder did.
Now that's a bottom.
In that brilliant buy, Kinder got the most important asset in the Bakken, namely a pipeline that could take crude from Continental, Exxon and Hess (HES), three of the biggest North Dakota stakeholders, and send it to the Gulf of Mexico to be refined.
Bakken oil is extremely flammable, kind of like lighter fluid, so it is not ideal for trains that could be exposed to derailment and tanker explosions. It's perfect for pipes, and the only good one is the one that Kinder, in retrospect, stole from Hamm.
In hindsight, we can look back and see a bottom right then in pretty much all of the charts of the oils. At the same time that Kinder bought his pipeline, a series of distressed oil companies offered stock in the market that turned out to be remarkable buys, such as the 4.5 million shares that one of my favorites, Carrizo (CRZO), sold at $45.50 and is now at $57, or the 6 million shares of Concho (CXO) at $108 and is now at $124, or the 35 million shares of a desperate Whiting (WLL) that came at $30 with the stock at $37. That's what a bottom looks like, not this action where many of these oil stocks have now shot up to where they were when oil was at $90. That's right, $30 higher than where it is now.
The best thing you can say about Exxon is that, in bad times, it doesn't do all that badly, and in good times it does fine.
But it's not a "tell" of anything. The real bell rang when the smartest man in oil, Rich Kinder, laid down $3 billion to buy the most prime asset available. That was the most exquisite of timing.
Everyone else who acts now? You are strictly in the Johnny-come-lately class of buyers.