NEW YORK (
-- Stocks of offshore oil-driller stocks raced ahead in March when President Obama announced the end to a decades-old moratorium on new offshore drilling. Facing intensified political pressure about its decision to open up offshore oil and gas assets to new drilling, President Obama's administration said on Friday morning that no new offshore drilling will be allowed until the exact causes of the current oil spill are identified.
On Friday, the offshore oil driller stocks are retreating as surely as the
oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is advancing in the sensitive coastline areas in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
, which operated the collapsed Gulf of Mexico oil rig for
underwater well, was among the biggest losers among offshore drillers on Friday at midday.
Transocean was down more than 7%, bringing its two-day share price loss between Thursday and Friday to 15%. The oil spill crisis worsened on Thursday and Friday as the original BP estimate for the rate of oil leaking out of the underwater well was quintupled by a government estimate, and the oil spill reached land on Thursday evening.
For the week through midday Friday, Transocean shares had lost more than $14, to a share price near $74 -- a price that Transocean shares had not been as low as since the summer 2009. Transocean shares have lost about 20% of their value this week.
Worse still, stormy weather on Friday was making it difficult for oil-spill containment efforts from BP and the U.S. Coast Guard -- including controlled burns and the use of booms to contain the spread of the oil spill and keep it from reaching land -- to be effective.
The White House's latest words on offshore drilling sent all the offshore drillers into a Friday selloff, even as BP's share price stabilized on Friday, trading marginally positive at midday. For the week through midday Friday, BP shares had still lost approximately $7, to a midday Friday share price under $53, or a weekly loss of approximately 13% of market cap.
Presidential advisor David Axelrod appeared on morning television to reassure Americans that just because
President Obama lifted the moratorium on offshore drilling, it doesn't mean the government will be moving ahead and allowing offshore drilling without a full and satisfactory accounting of what went wrong with the BP and Transocean oil rig disaster.
, the most leveraged of the offshore stocks, was down 7% on Friday at midday. The loss wasn't just about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico being in the national spotlight, though. Hercules also announced a first quarter loss on Thursday.
was down close to 5%.
Diamond Offshore Drilling
were down between 4% and 5% on Friday at midday, while
was down more than 3%.
Of course, all the short-term action in the offshore drilling stocks in relation to the oil spill disaster could prove as speculative as the previous rally in the offshore driller stocks when President Obama announced the new federal policy to allow drilling. The benefits from new offshore drilling would be years out on the investment time horizon.
Other oil companies involved in the oil rig disaster and oil spill include
, which provided the blowout preventer to the BP/Transocean oil rig. While Cameron shares swooned on Thursday, Cameron shares were rallying on Friday, up 4% and erasing a about half of Thursday's losses.
Cameron is insured for $500 million of liability, the company said, and there was no immediate indication that the blowout preventer would be cause for a lawsuit. The rally in Cameron shares was an indication that some investors believed it was oversold on Thursday on the fear of potential legal liability.
-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.
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