On another dark day for oil prices, oil services stocks and exchange traded funds are finding some surprising, albeit modest relief with the Market Vectors Oil Service ETF (NYSEArca: OIH) trading slightly higher at this writing.
Still, OIH and the rival iShares U.S. Oil Equipment & Services ETF (NYSEArca: IEZ) are down an average of 20% over the past 90 days, the definition of a bear market. With traders reluctant to bet on a bottom for oil prices, oil services ETFs remain vulnerable to further downside and investors should be prepared for some less-than-pleasant 2015 earnings guidance from the industry.
“Fourth-quarter results should be fine but 2015 guidance will be nasty. The stocks will bottom before the rig count does (historically three to six months before) but that time is not yet. On a relative basis larger-cap oilfield services (OFS) stocks likely fair better in this tough environment but beta names will lead off the bottom,” said Credit Suisse in note posted by Barron’s Tuesday.
Earlier Tuesday, Sterne Agee pared its earnings outlook for the oil services group, not surprisingly citing, sagging oil prices while warning of negative EPS revisions to come.
While higher beta names may lead an oil services resurgence, traders are not betting that rebound will materialize in the near-term. Data indicate sentiment is going in the opposite direction. On Monday, a trader bought 11,000 August 7-strike puts for an average price of 55 cents in Weatherford International (NYSE: WFT), according to CNBC.
In order for those puts to become profitable, shares of Weatherford must fall below $6.45 by August expiration, a long way from the $10 area in which the stock currently resides. Weatherford is OIH’s ninth-largest holding at a weight of almost 3.8%. [Oil Services ETFs for Contrarian Investors]