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Oil giants face slippery slope of earnings season

With the slump in oil prices showing no signs of abating, 2016 does not look like a vintage year for the industry's biggest companies.

A plunging oil price seems to be the culprit, with WTI, the main U.S. indicator, down 10.76 percent in July, and apparently set for its worst monthly performance since December 2015. Supply seems to have recovered, at the same time as concerns about global demand for oil grew.

BP was the first of the publicly listed oil giants to report this earnings season on Tuesday, ahead of Shell results on Thursday and Exxon Mobil on Friday.

The market wasn't particularly encouraged by the results as it warned refining margins (the difference between the price of oil as a raw material and its products) would stay under significant pressure in the third quarter, and reported underlying replacement cost profit falling to $720 million, below analyst expectations.

Bob Dudley, the company's chief executive, warned of a "challenging" environment and its share price dipped by around 1 percent in early London trade.


Exxon was one of the biggest fallers on the Dow Monday, as energy stocks performed poorly. The sector posted its worst daily performance since June 27, the second trading session after the Brexit vote, when it fell 2.54 percent.

The oil price is being weighed down as broader economic concerns are dampening many traders' expectations for demand. The prospect of Brexit — and subsequent uncertainty around Europe and the U.K.'s trading relationships and its consequences for manufacturing — is seen as one of the biggest risks to the price of oil. Member countries of the Organization of the Economic Co-operation and Development and Europe drove the unexpectedly high demand earlier this year – and if their need for oil doesn't meet forecasts, they may have to be cut.

Many of the oil companies are about to raise capital expenditure in the third quarter of the year in the hope of greater prices, according to a forecast by Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Major agency forecasts still suggest demand growth, and the International Energy Agency (IEA) recently upgraded its 2016 demand growth forecast on stronger demand than expected in developed markets.

However, many in the markets sense that the second half of 2016 is going to be worse than thought for demand, with 2017 even trickier. Analysts at UBS blamed "rising prices and macroeconomic headwinds" for a predicted slowdown in 2017 in a research note.

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