Why $40 oil won't solve the high-yield energy problems

High-yield bond investors may be cheering oil's recent bounce back above $40, but one expert cautions that their relief might be short-lived.

"There are certainly companies in our market that can survive at 40, but that's really been priced-in, in terms of spread," said HSBC's Mary Bowers. "There are a lot of names in our market that have seen a tremendous run in the bond prices over the last two months, but $40 long term isn't going to keep them going."

After bottoming at $26 in mid-February, WTI crude has staged a substantial rebound, and on Tuesday traded at $43.94.

In reaction to that move, some energy stocks with below-investment-grade credit ratings have staged incredible rallies. For instance, Denbury Resources has surged 280 percent since mid-February, Chesapeake Energy is up 260 percent, and Helix Energy Solutions has risen 210 percent.

But Bowers, senior portfolio manager for global high yield at HSBC Global Asset Management, points out that even at these higher oil prices, not every at-risk energy company can actually sustain itself.

"[There are] a lot of companies in the second and third tier basins that really are exposed because the cost of production isn't really supported at oil price of $50 to $60," she told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Monday.

Read MoreTreasury yields as oil spikes

In addition, another problem could be coming for some of the more speculative energy stocks.

"Some of these troubled names do have hedges, so that is partly why bonds are trading where they are," Bowers said.

Once the hedges roll off, however, and the companies receive the market price for the commodities they produce, major trouble could ensue.

The high-yield bond market has been closely linked to equities this year. For 2016, the iBoxx liquid high-yield index and the S&P 500 have experienced a correlation of 0.59, which is a tighter relationship than either index has had with oil prices.


Trades to Watch

Trader Bios


Trading Nation is a multimedia financial news program that shows investors and traders how to use the news of the day to their advantage. This is where experts from across the financial world – including macro strategists, technical analysts, stock-pickers, and traders who specialize in options, currencies, and fixed income – come together to find the best ways to capitalize on recent developments in the market. Trading Nation: Where headlines become opportunities.

Michael Santoli

Michael Santoli joined CNBC in October 2015 as a Senior Markets Commentator, based at the network's Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.  Santoli brings his extensive markets expertise to CNBC's Business Day programming, with a regular appearance on CNBC's “Closing Bell (M-F, 3PM-5PM ET).   In addition, he contributes to CNBCand CNBC PRO, writing regular articles and creating original digital videos.

Previously, Santoli was a Senior Columnist at Yahoo Finance, where he wrote analysis and commentary on the stock market, corporate news and the economy. He also appeared on Yahoo Finance video programs, where he offered insights on the most important business stories of the day, and was a regular contributor to CNBC and other networks.

Follow Michael Santoli on Twitter @michaelsantoli

Read more