NEW BEARISH Plays

Continental Resources, Inc. - CLR - close: 43.98 change: -1.48

Stop Loss: 50.65
Target(s): To Be Determined
Current Gain/Loss: Unopened
Entry on June -- at $---.--
Listed on June 20, 2015
Time Frame: 6 to 8 weeks, exit prior to earnings in August
Average Daily Volume = 8.8 thousand
New Positions: Yes, see below

Company Description

Trade Description:
There are a lot of currents moving the oil industry these days. Currency moves, OPEC production, access to capital, falling rig counts, and potential bankruptcies. The stock performance for U.S. shale oil drillers have been suffering. CLR is one such stock.

CLR is in the basic materials sector. According to the company, "Continental Resources (CLR) is a Top 10 independent oil producer in the United States and a leader in America's energy renaissance. Based in Oklahoma City, Continental is the largest leaseholder and one of the largest producers in the nation's premier oil field, the Bakken play of North Dakota and Montana. The Company also has significant positions in Oklahoma, including its SCOOP Woodford and SCOOP Springer discoveries and the Northwest Cana play."

Earnings have taken a hit. CLR reported their Q1 results on May 6th. They reported a net loss of $186 million or 36 cents a share. That's a big drop from a 61-cent profit a year ago. After adjusting for writedowns and one-time items CLR said their quarterly earnings were a loss of ($0.09) per share. That was actually four cents better than analysts' estimates for a ($0.13) loss. Revenues plunged -41% to $592.89 million even though CLR's production surged +36% from a year ago.

Bullish investors could argue that crude oil put in a bottom earlier this year and the commodity should rally toward year end. Bulls can also point to falling production costs as a tailwind for the industry. CLR said their completion costs for wells dropped -15% from the end of 2014. Obviously this makes the company more profitable (or at least cuts their losses). Optimistically CLR expects their cost reductions to hit 20% by mid-year. There are some on Wall Street who think the industry has seen a bottom. Shares of CLR were upgraded by Goldman Sachs to a "buy" in May.

Bulls also note that the plunge in active rigs should be bullish for oil and thus oil companies. Weekly rig count, compiled by Baker Hughes, showed that the number of active oil and gas rigs fell again last week. This is the 28th week in a row that the number of rigs has declined. We're now down to 857 active oil and gas rigs, which hasn't been this low since early 2003.

Naturally you might think that a plunge to 12-year lows for active rigs means that U.S. oil production would shrink as well. That hasn't happened yet. While costs are going down oil producers are actually more efficient at pumping per well so production is going up. The low rig count is a leading indictor that production will eventually decline but it could be months from now. The U.S. EIA doesn't expect U.S. production to fall until early next year.

A bigger problem for the oil industry is competition. The recent OPEC meeting showed that the Saudis are willing to pump as much oil as they can to maintain their market share regardless of the price of oil. These are state-run oil companies and don't have to report to shareholders like American drillers. Plus the average cost per barrel of oil is a lot lower in Saudi than the U.S.

Another challenge for many drillers is capital. Drilling shale oil wells and fracking costs a lot of money. The drop in crude oil prices has made lenders less likely to loan money to drillers. To compensate for the lack of capital the oil drillers might be forced to sell more stock to raise capital and this would dilute current shareholders and drive stock prices lower. This past week the Cowen research company said, ""We expect ... E&Ps to issue additional equity in 2H2015 to fund 2016 capex as borrowing bases will be declining and debt metrics deteriorating."

The issue of debt and access to capital could be a fatal one. There are growing predictions that we will see up to a dozen publicly traded oil and gas companies file for bankruptcy between July 2015 and June 2016. Now CLR is not on the list but if we see smaller rivals start to go bankrupt it is going to put pressure on all the oil-industry stocks.

Oil stocks are also going to react to currency moves. The Federal Reserve wants to raise rates and that will lift the dollar. Even if the Fed doesn't raise rates the QE programs in Japan and Europe could drive the yen and euro lower, which boosts the dollar. A rising dollar pressures commodity prices lower.

A lot of investors are already betting on CLR to decline. The most recent data listed short interest at 17.9% of the 84.8 million share float. We think the bears are right. CLR has been underperforming the broader market. The point & figure chart is bearish and forecasting at $35.00 target. I suspect the 2015 lows near $42.00 could be support. Tonight we are suggesting a trigger to open bearish positions at $43.75.

Trigger @ $43.75

- Suggested Positions -

Short CLR stock @ $43.75

- (or for more adventurous traders, try this option) -

Buy the SEP $40 PUT (CLR150918P40) current ask $2.05
option price is a current quote and not a suggested entry price.

Entry disclaimer: To avoid an unfavorable entry point, we will not launch a new play if the stock gaps open more than $1.00 past our suggested entry point.

Option Format: symbol-year-month-day-call-strike

Daily Chart:

Weekly Chart: