Rani Molla is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist using data visualizations to cover corporations and markets. She previously worked for the Wall Street Journal.

Downward Facing Slog
Source: Bloomberg

No business sector felt 2015’s turbulent end quite as acutely as energy companies. Following steep drops in oil and gas prices, energy companies had to sharply cut spending -- leading to the greatest drop in capital expenditures of any sector in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Low Energy
Average capex by S&P 500 sector, fourth quarter of 2015 compared to same period a year ago
Source: Bloomberg

As you can see from the chart below, the companies with the greatest decrease in quarterly, year-over-year capital expenditure are largely energy companies, with ConocoPhillips, Apache and Exxon Mobile tightening their belts the most.  (Google holding company Alphabet also slashed spending, but that was part of an effort to show investors that Alphabet was becoming more financially disciplined.)

Belt Tightening
Companies with the greatest decrease in capex, fourth quarter of 2015 compared to the same period a year ago
Source: Bloomberg

Still, energy companies also had the farthest to fall of any sector. In the past five years, their capex increased the most, as they ramped up spending on shale exploration and production. With oil now around $30 a barrel, that kind of investment growth is, for now, a thing of the past.

Lot to Lose
Average capital expenditure increase by S&P 500 sector, from 2010 to 2015
Source: Bloomberg


This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Rani Molla in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Timothy L. O'Brien at