NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The continued decline in oil prices remains Wall Street's focus, with West Texas Intermediate down 4% and Brent crude lower by 5% on Monday. The selling pressure on energy company stocks is likely to continue since rig counts have not declined enough, Joseph Terranova, chief market strategist for Virtus Investment Partners, said on CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime" show.
The fact that interest rates were so low for so long paved the way for many energy companies to ramp up production, which is now hurting oil prices amid oversupply, Terranova added. This is forcing many of the energy companies that have weak balance sheets to hedge their production by selling oil futures. This, in turn, drives oil prices even lower.
Josh Brown, CEO and co-founder of Ritholtz Wealth Management, agreed, saying the rig count hasn't dropped nearly enough to justify a bounce in oil prices since so much supply continues to hit the market. The selloff in oil stocks hasn't been as brutal as the decline in oil prices, meaning there's likely more pain to come for shareholders. It will be important to see the capital expenditure budgets released for 2015.
Oil prices are down more than 50% from the summer highs while the S&P 500 is only about 3% off its highs, pointed out Jim Lebenthal, CFO and CIO of Lebenthal & Company.
Adding to Monday's oil pain could be the bearish research note from Goldman Sachs that predicts Brent and WTI prices will drop to the low $40 range. Jeff Currie, head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs, said those prices could stagnant in that range for roughly six months, which would put a lot of pressure on the companies with levered and strained balance sheets.
However, Currie's 12-month targets for WTI and Brent crude oil are $65 and $70, respectively. Investors need to stop believing that oil prices are going to rebound to the $80 to $90 per barrel range. Asia continues to be a large buyer of oil, but even that hasn't been enough to offset the higher supply. In order for prices to go up, production will need to slow or some companies will ultimately default.
In the past six days, oil prices have declined 12%. "That's huge," according to Stephanie Link, chief investment officer of TheStreet and co-manager of the Action Alerts PLUS portfolio. It will be concerning if the velocity of the selloff maintains speed to the downside, she added.
Overall, lower oil prices should certainly benefit the economy, Link reasoned. However, the energy and financial sectors make up roughly 25% of the S&P 500. The financials have been underperforming of late and if both report dismal earnings results, the broader market could react negatively.
For instance, Goldman Sachs (GS) and Wells Fargo (WFC) trade at 10 times and 12 times earnings, respectively. Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC) trade at 0.75 and 0.80 times book value, respectively. "These stocks are not expensive," Brown reasoned, it just depends on how much exposure investors want to the sector.
The bull case for owning the financials has changed because so many investors expected to see higher interest rates, Link said. However, that doesn't mean all financial companies should be avoided. Look at credit card companies and firms with exposure to asset management such as Morgan Stanley (MS) , an AAP holding, she said.
In March, Citigroup will likely win approval to return capital to shareholders, Lebenthal said. It's a stock he likes for the long term. However, he acknowledged financials are likely to underperform in the short term.
-- Written by Bret Kenwell