Trader Talk

China, weak oil are killing commodity stocks today

A gas flare is seen at an oil well site outside Williston, North Dakota.
Getty Images

China and the continuing weakness in oil are teaming up to make it a brutal day for commodity stocks.

Metals are getting killed, with steel stocks like Allegheny Tech , AK Steel and US Steel down 7 percent.

ATI warned last night, and with good reason: the world is awash in Chinese steel exports.

Weakness in China (no one believes the economic stats any more) is weighing on many other industries. Last night, SKF, the world's biggest maker of ball bearings (they're based in Sweden), said a "radical" downward revision in China's auto output was going to be a big drag on revenues.

The continuing weakness in oil is also weighing on the markets. $50 oil is simply unsustainable for the industry for any length of time. We are continuing to see oversupply, even though the weekly inventory levels indicated a modest drawdown. Throw in a complete lack of visibility on the demand side, and you have the basis for continuing pain.

So you have drillers like Transocean down 4 percent, oil service companies like Halliburton down 3.2 percent, and exploration and production companies like Denbury and Pioneer Natural Resources down 3 percent to 4 percent.

Heck, even the refiners are down today, and some are near all-time highs.

BHP Billiton became the latest to write down its U.S. onshore petroleum business (by roughly $2 billion). Expect to see more of that.

The real issue is, will we be doing any real damage to our energy infrastructure? Will we be able to ramp up production a year or two from now, when we do expect demand to resume? Not clear.

There are some other issues, principally the stronger dollar, up largely on euro unrest. The Iran deal is a factor in oil, though everyone knows Iran supply is small (about 500,000 barrels a day) and nothing is going to happen before the end of the year.