Bear Stearns

cut its rating on

Amerada Hess

(AHC) - Get A.H. Belo Corporation Class A Report

to neutral from buy, saying

President Clinton's

decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from reserve strengthened the firm's conviction that oil prices are headed for a steep decline.

A research note from the firm said the decision will result in a quick build-up of petroleum inventories, which, "in conjunction with a sharp increase in oil supplies from


in recent months, should be the catalyst for a steep drop in oil prices, in our judgement. We continue to believe that a price for

West Texas Intermediate

crude of $20 per barrel in 2001 is a reasonable expectation."

Bear Stearns said Amerada Hess' stock price is likely to be under pressure during the period in which oil prices are falling. The firm said the stock has not reached its price target of $75 per share, but it has been a good performer and has advanced 37% in the past seven months. "Given the company's sensitivity to changes in oil prices and the stock's recent performance, we believe the stock price could correct by some 15% to 20% from the current level," according to the note.

Still, the firm said that the company's oil and gas production growth -- estimated at 10% in 2000 and 5% in 2001 -- exceeds that of most major oil companies, and Bear Stearns will continue to believe the long-term outlook for Amerada Hess is good.




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