The global oil market is in a state of panic, and its impact is being felt all over the globe.
The year started off rocky due to a longstanding glut of oil thanks to decades worth of expansion in U.S. onshore production. A price war between OPEC and Russia only further amplified the oversupply problem. That issue has since been resolved, but not before sustaining anoth price drop due to the global economic shutdown that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. With too much oil and too little demand, oil prices plummeted to historic lows through February and March, only recently regaining ground.
The current headwinds are intense and have led many energy companies to trim their dividends. Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-B) and Equinor are two direct competitors that have taken this drastic step to ensure they have ample cash to survive. Even Helmerich & Payne (NYSE: HP), which had a streak of 47 annual dividend hikes under its belt along with a rock-solid balance sheet still felt it necessary to cut the dividend in March.
For its part, Chevron has increased its dividend annually for 33 consecutive years. At the end of the first quarter, Chevron's total long-term debt had increased roughly 20% from the start of the year. At the end of May, it announced a 15 percent cut of its global workforce.
Exxon's dividend streak is even longer as it has increased its dividend annually for 37 consecutive years. But Exxon's long-term debt jumped even more than Chevron since the beginning of the year as it rose by nearly a third.
The historically cyclical energy sector has experienced more than its fair share of ups and downs over the last three decades. The current challenges may only be a forbearer of future change, as renewable energy becomes cheaper and attempts to take a larger market share from fossil fuels.
Exxon and Chevron have taken steps toward the low-carbon future. Exxon is developing biofuels from algae, while Chevron has invested in solar, wind and geothermal power sources. But environmental activists say they haven't done enough.
Even with the support of the Trump administration, oil has an uncertain future. And even oil giants will need to fight for survival in the post-COVID-19 era.
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