There’s really nothing wrong with Chesapeake Energy (CHK) that an increase in natural gas prices wouldn’t fix.
Yesterday, August 3, Chesapeake reported second quarter earnings of 18 cents a share after subtracting one-time events. In the second quarter of 2016, Chesapeake reported a loss. Wall Street had been expecting earnings of 14 cents a share in this quarter. Adjusted revenue was $1.28 billion. Wall Street was looking for $1.07 billion. And, finally, the company announced that it had reduced debt to $9.7 billion from $10 billion on December 31,2016.
And still the stock fell 2.6% yesterday to $4.50. That’s near the $4.38 52-week low. And a long way away from the 52-week high at $8.20 a share. The stock is down 35.9% for 2017 to date and down 14.93% for the last 12 months.
Chesapeake’s big problem is that it’s the second largest U.S producer of natural gas–not oil. Yesterday natural gas closed at $2.79 per million BTUs. Back on December 28, natural gas traded at $3.93. On that same date Chesapeake shares traded at$7.28–not $4.50.
Chesapeake has been working hard to increase its oil production. In July the company’s oil production peaked at 90,400 barrels a day and Chesapeake’s year-end goal is 100,000 barrels a day. But Chesapeake’s total average production of oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids was 548,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day. The rise in the price of oil in the quarter was completely overwhelmed by the stagnation in natural gas prices. Natural gas sold for $3.19 per million BTUs on March 31 and $3.035 on June 30.
I can’t see any reason for a significant increase in the price of natural gas in 2017. At least not one that will stick. Production continues to climb on all fronts and demand isn’t growing fast enough to soak up the extra supply.
Until there is some turn in the fundamentals of the natural gas market, I consider Chesapeake Energy, a member of my 50 Stocks Portfolio, a great trading stock rather than a long-term holding. In my own portfolio I’ve been buying Chesapeake Energy when the shares hits $4.50 or lower and then selling when they push up to $5.10 or $5.25. I’ve repeatedly seen that kind of bounce on short term news such as a forecast for hotter than usual summer weather.
There was one piece of good news today that removes a cloud that was hanging over the stock. The U.S. Department of Justice has closed an investigation into Chesapeake’s accounting for oil and natural gas assets without taking any action. On July 17, the Securities and Exchange Commission informed the company by letter that it also was dropping the case.
Full disclosure: I own shares of Chesapeake Energy in my personal portfolio.