It's finally happened. After months of reading the tea leaves, we have the first clear indication that all is not entirely well in the land of Big Oil in the form of the merger between Halliburton and Baker Hughes.
There are lots of stories right now about the Houston-based companies -- the second- and third-largest oil field service providers in the world, respectively -- and what the merger will mean. For one thing, there will almost certainly be layoffs when these two soon-to-be-former rivals put a ring on it and make everything official. Plus there are already questions about how exactly -- with antitrust laws on the books and Standard Oil in our history -- this deal wouldn't violate antitrust laws.
But the thing that has really grabbed our attention is that after weeks of falling oil prices and rumbling in the industry, this merger is just another tell that the oil industry might be readying itself for hard times -- which is a kind and gentle way of saying that, based on oil prices that make the shale plays that have been driving this whole U.S. oil boom less profitable to drill, they may be bracing for a bust.More »