Last month, many industries went into turmoil and one of those was the oil refinery industry. This was due to the global events that shook up the capital markets. Some of the better-known oil refiner stocks like Marathon Petroleum (MPC), Phillips 66 (PSX) and Valero Energy (VLO) took a nosedive. According to information from S&P Global Market Intelligence, the declines for the month ranged from 12% to 23%.
There is a number of factors which are responsible for the decline in oil refinery stocks for the month of May. Perhaps the biggest reason is the escalating trade tensions between the United States and China.
It was in May that the talks broke down between the two nations and the tariff wars started yet again. The trade standoff has resulted in a significant drop in the demand for refined oil products. Consequently, the profit margins of the major oil refinery companies were hit.
However, in addition to the trade war with China, the United States had also threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican goods if the immigration issue was not tackled. That was another negative trigger for oil refinery stocks since a hike in tariffs would force Mexico to send a lower quantity of crude oil to the United States and the refinery companies would need to look at more expensive sources. On top of that, the current issues in the middle east have not helped the matter either.
The major companies in the industry reported significant drops in their earnings, with Valero’s earnings nose-diving by 41%, while Phillips 66 recorded a 50% drop in earnings. On the other hand, Marathon Petroleum earned $11.17 for each barrel in the first quarter as opposed to analysts’ estimates of $13.85 per barrel. The margins were hit due to higher oil prices.
Despite the troubles that the companies went through in May, the future may not be as gloomy. One analyst stated that Valero and Phillips 66 could be a good prospect for investors since the stocks are being weighed down by trade issues rather than any fundamental problem with margins. In fact, JP Morgan has already upgraded Valero and classified it under overweight.