Apache offers thrills to investors prizing boredom; Stock falls to 17 year low

(BY: LIAM DENNING, BLOOMBERG) -- In a week when oil stocks seem stuck in the familiar (if somewhat erratic) steps of a Viennese waltz, Apache Corp. is dancing to a different tune. And falling over.

The exploration and production company issued an update on an exploratory well it has been drilling off the coast of Suriname. Needless to say, it wasn’t a barnstormer. Apache essentially said the well had reached its target depth and the company was evaluating two distinct plays and planned on drilling a bit further to assess a third. No mention of hitting a significant deposit of hydrocarbons. On the other hand, no mention of it being a dry hole either. Ambiguity reigns — and, as monarchs go, ambiguity faces some decidedly restless subjects.

Clearly, Monday’s announcement doesn’t close the door on success there. With the stock hitting its lowest level in more than 17 years — when Brent was trading at $25 — those willing to bet Apache is simply being overly cautious in a sector that usually errs the other way could find the wildcatter bet ultimately pays off. However, even after this latest sell-off, there may yet be a long way further down.