George Soros didn't become a billionaire by making bad investment decisions, so it should capture your attention to learn that Soros Fund Management in the last quarter dumped all of its shares in Chevron (CVX) , Chesapeake Energy (CHK) and NRG Energy (NRG) .
The best way to invest like a billionaire is to, well, start with a billion dollars. For the rest of us non-billionaires, the next best way is to observe their buying and selling decisions. Should you sell energy stocks, in favor of more promising growth opportunities in other sectors? The week ahead will provide major clues as to whether Soros is acting prematurely or seeing the writing on the wall.
Energy prices this year have been wildly swinging on even the flimsiest of news, in turn driving intra-day volatility in the equity markets. Oil prices surged last week, after Saudi Arabia and Russia reached a surprise accord to freeze oil production in an effort to boost oil prices. However, prices quickly tumbled again after Iran rejected the freeze. Sitting on one fifth of the world's proven reserves, Iran vows to seek revenge for sanctions by dumping more oil onto the already severe global glut.
Investors are continually left guessing as to which way the troubled and unpredictable energy sector will drive stocks. U.S. crude closed Friday at $29.64 a barrel, a decline of more than 73% from midsummer highs in 2014 of $110. The broader markets have been caught in oil's downdraft, with the S&P 500 down 5.82% year to date.
To be sure, low energy prices are putting more disposable income into the pockets of consumers, which partly explains the resilience of consumer confidence so far this year. But keep in mind, the U.S. spends $1.4 trillion annually on energy, accounting for 8.2% of gross domestic product. In the U.S., the energy industry supports more than nine million jobs directly and indirectly, which is over 5% of the country's total employment.
According to recent statistics from Goldman Sachs (GS) , the energy sector accounts for roughly one-third of S&P 500 capital expenditures and roughly 25% of combined capex and research and development spending. When oil prices are this low for this long, the pain spreads beyond just energy companies.
A slew of earnings reports are due this week from major energy companies, including Chesapeake (which is continually compelled to deny bankruptcy rumors), McDermott International (MDR) , Holly Energy Partners (HEP) , HollyFrontier (HFC) , Carrizo Oil & Gas (CRZO) , Linn Energy (LINE) , SandRidge Energy (SDOC) , Sunoco (SUN) , Transocean (RIG) , and others. Some of these companies (notably Chesapeake, McDermott, Linn, and Transocean) are deeply distressed and they're expected to report dismal earnings results and guidance this week.