After much-ballyhooed oil production talks collapsed in acrimony on Sunday in Qatar, the tabloids of yore might have carried this banner headline: “Doha Lays an Egg.”
Crushing investor hopes of a sustained energy rally, officials from 18 oil-producing nations failed on Sunday to achieve an agreement to freeze oil production at current levels.
Representing most OPEC nations as well as Russia, the conference was an attempt to alleviate the massive global oil glut that’s weighing on prices and equity markets. But the effort backfired and has probably made the situation worse by undermining investor confidence.
The major point of contention was Iran’s categorical rejection of a freeze. Iran’s proven oil reserves are the fifth largest in the world; the country’s refusal to cap production would have rendered any freeze ineffectual.
Now that the confab has ended in abject failure, oil prices are likely to plunge again in coming days, taking the broader markets with them. Investors have started fleeing vulnerable energy stocks to seek better growth opportunities in other sectors such as technology.
So far this year, energy prices and stocks have tended to move in tandem. This dynamic will probably play out again this week.
Oil plummeted in early trading on Monday in Asia, at one point declining nearly 6% percent to fall below $38 a barrel.
Meanwhile, before the Doha meeting, Citigroup (C) strategists predicted that if the group failed to reach an agreement, it would trigger a "severe" plunge in energy prices. Investors should brace themselves for that eventuality. Whether the energy rally is sustainable looks increasingly doubtful.Of keen interest in the week ahead will be new petroleum and natural gas reports from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), as well as the latest Baker Hughes ( BHI) rig count. Baker Hughes reported last week that the rig count fell for the fourth straight week; similarly bad news is expected in Friday's update.
The upshot, it seems, is that Saudi Arabia's desperate efforts to boost energy prices are going nowhere fast.
But good news last week came from a surprising source: the operating results of big banks. Quarterly earnings reports were not as weak as investors had feared, helping propel the overall market higher. For the week, the S&P 500 (SPY) was up 1.6%.
Skepticism over bank earnings remains, especially in light of the massive energy sector debt now on many bank balance sheets, but concern is considerably less dire. The latest earnings from major financial services firms in coming days will hold further clues as to the health of the overall economy in general and the banking sector in particular.
Here's a snapshot of the major earnings and economic reports on the docket in the week ahead:
Monday: M&T Bank (MTB) , Morgan Stanley (MS) , BBCN Bancorp (BBCN) , MB Financial (MBFI) , Hasbro (HAS) , PepsiCo (PEP) , IBM (IBM) , and Netflix (NFLX) . Tuesday: Brinker (EAT) , Goldman Sachs (GS) , Harley-Davidson (HOG) , Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) , Philip Morris International (PM) , TD Ameritrade (AMTD) , UnitedHealth (UNH) , Intel (INTC) , and Yahoo! (YHOO) . Wednesday: ABB (ABB) , Abbott Labs (ABT) , Coca-Cola (KO) , Illinois Tool (ITW) , Textron (TXT) , U.S. Bancorp (USB) , Hexcel (HXL) , Newmont Mining (NEM) , Qualcomm (QCOM) , and Yum! Brands (YUM) . Thursday: Alaska Air (ALK) , Biogen (BIIB) , Canadian Pacific (CP) , General Motors (GM) , Novartis (NVS) , Rockwell Collins (COL) , Verizon (VZ) , Norfolk Southern (NSC) , Schlumberger (SLB) , Starbucks (SBUX) , and Visa (V) . Friday: American Airlines (AAL) , Caterpillar (CAT) , General Electric (GE) , Honeywell (HON) , Kimberly-Clark (KMB) , McDonald's (MCD) , and SunTrust Banks (STI) .
Economic Calendar: Monday: Housing Market Index. Tuesday: Housing Starts. Wednesday: MBA Mortgage Applications, Existing Home Sales, and EIA Petroleum Status Report. Thursday: Jobless Claims, FHFA House Price Index, Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, Leading Indicators, and EIA Natural Gas Report. Friday: PMI Manufacturing Index Flash and Baker Hughes Rig Count.
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