In the game of survival, oil drillers have cut capital spending in half this year, but they have also created a gusher of new stock offerings in an effort to protect their balance sheets.
"They're trying to position themselves for — the phrase is — 'lower for longer,'" said Imperial Capital analyst Kim Pacanovsky. "Lower for longer is getting worse than we thought it was. Most companies are thinking, not so much about a recovery to the $70 range, but oil for lower for a long amount of time. They would be reticent to take on debt, but if they have been able to tap the market for equity, that's what they're doing. ... It gives them a cushion. It gives them liquidity without taking on additional debt, and just staying power."
Even with oil's sharp 30 percent rally since Feb. 11, industry experts do not expect much higher prices, and many are still hesitant to call a bottom in the market. So they continue to plan for the worst.
Equities have taken a pounding, with some stocks at decade lows. The S&P 500 energy sector is down 41 percent from the June 2014 high in West Texas Intermediate crude prices. WTI was just above $34 per barrel Wednesday, and at its low, was down more than 70 percent from its 2014 highs.