Assessing the fallout from the fall in oil prices

December 6
8:03 PM 2014

With crude oil prices hitting five-year lows, investors are scrambling to gauge the impact of the sharp drop in petroleum costs on companies beyond the energy sector.

Determining the effects of the decline in commodities prices for ancillary industries is difficult. So it will be instructive to see what kind of comments come out of a number of analyst meetings being held in the next few weeks from major industrial companies, some of which have substantial businesses that supply the energy industry.

On Monday, Dover Corp (DOV.N), which develops pumps and sensors used in oil and gas extraction, will hold an analyst day. Its shares have fallen 9 percent in the last eight trading sessions.

"In the next couple of quarters, should drilling and the build-out of infrastructure slow down, these are the guys that are going to get hit," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

Goldman Sachs pointed out in a note this week that some big manufacturers have significant exposure to the oil and gas industry. Dover's annual report notes that its energy business comprises about a quarter of its annual sales, and its annual report last year said it expected to continue expanding.

"It could be early for a number of these companies to announce or speculate on how the decline in oil prices has impacted or will impact their results, either positively or negatively," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

Energy earnings expectations have continued to crater. On Monday, the fourth-quarter estimate was for a year-over-year decline of 11.2 percent for S&P energy stocks. By Friday, that had dropped to 14.7 percent decline, according to Thomson Reuters data. Whether the drop in energy prices will have an effect on other sectors is yet unclear.

Sector behemoths Honeywell (HON.N) and General Electric (GE.N) have a 15 percent exposure to oil and gas each while United Technologies (UTX.N), also with an upcoming analyst day next week, is "less tied to oil trends," according to Goldman Sachs.

Honeywell and GE will have analyst days the week after next. Volatility in GE's shares has been lower than usual of late, which means anything unusual out of the company could affect the stock.

The same goes for Honeywell, whose shares Goldman notes have moved, on average, 3.4 percent after its last seven fiscal outlook calls, compared with an average 1.9 percent move after its last eight earnings releases.

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