How BP's woes might hurt the market

Waves carry in blobs of oil as it washes ashore from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Ala.


The center of Tropical Storm Alex is not expected to pass near the site of BP's leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. It's also not expected to halt the drilling of two relief wells. But the 12-foot waves the storm is likely to cause could hamper some oil containment efforts. That can't help BP's financial health.

BP's already lost more than half of its stock market value. How much worse could things get for the company?

Well, the worst-case estimate is that every day the spill goes on BP could be racking up an additional $250 million in costs. And the company just said it's already spent more than $2.5 billion so far. We've reported that BP's credit rating has been cut and that's made borrowing more difficult.

But now, there are concerns about the spill's impact on BP's huge energy-trading operations. The company trades in oil and natural gas. And gasoline is a big part of BP's business. And some of the company's trading partners are getting nervous about being on the other end of a BP trade these days.

"BP's trading arm is very large globally and it's a significant source of corporate profitability and it helps facilitate other aspects of BP's day-to-day operations," said Pavel Molchanov, analyst at Raymond James.

So analysts are starting to look at what this all means for the broader market.

What could BP's problems mean for the wider financial system?

Well, according to Reuters, the New York Fed has been looking at BP's links to financial firms. Over the last two weeks, the Fed has been pouring over documents and talking to banks about their exposure. Now sources are saying it looks like BP does not pose a risk to the financial system. But some banks are tightening their trading policies anyway and being more careful in their trades with BP. They're analyzing what a BP bankruptcy -- should we get to that point either because of Tropical Storm Alex or some other storm -- would mean for them.

This morning, a JPMorgan analyst wondered whether BP's falling marking value may make it a takeover target. Though there are questions about who would want to take it over with all those liabilities.

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