ExxonMobil, Chevron Boost Broad Market

NEW YORK (Dow Jones Newswires), Feb. 24, 2009

ExxonMobil and Chevron outpaced gains in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday as the oil giants bolstered the broad market. A rise in crude oil prices and positive earnings reports from smaller players encouraged buying.

The Amex Oil Index (XOI) rose 1.7% to 828. Exxon Mobil (XOM) rose 1.4% to $70.29. Chevron (CVX) advanced 1.7% to $64.04. Both companies are components of the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI), which was last off its highs, up about 30 points.

The Amex Natural Gas Index (XNG) rose 1.3% to 324. The Philadelphia Oil Service Index (OSXX) rose 0.5% to 113.

Among stocks in the spotlight, Bill Barrett Corp. (BBG) rose 3.5% to $18.75. The natural gas producer said fourth-quarter net income more than doubled to $6.9 million, or 15 cents a share, from $2.5 million, or 6 cents a share in the year-ago period. Adjusting for the fourth-quarter impairment charge and net unrealized commodity gains, net income totaled 46 cents a share. Improved fourth-quarter results were driven primarily by higher discretionary cash flow. Revenue rose to $147 million from $109 million. Analysts expected earnings of 43 cents a share on revenue of $145.8 million.

Parker Drilling Co. (PKD) jumped 33% to $1.70 a share. The company swung to a fourth-quarter net loss of $39.5 million, or 35 cents a share, from net income of $34.6 million, or 31 cents a share in the year-ago period. The latest period included 62 cents a share for non-routine items, including $100 million for impairment of goodwill. Excluding one-time costs, earnings were 27 cents a share in the latest period. Revenue rose to $212.4 million from $180.8 million.

U.S. Drilling revenue declined 34% on lower utilization and lower day rates for the Gulf of Mexico barge drilling fleet. International Drilling revenues rose 24%. Analysts expected earnings of 15 cents a share.

Sunoco (SUN) rallied 5.6% to $34.25. Soleil analyst Jacques Rousseau upgraded the refiner to buy from hold based on its 25% decline in share price so far this year, verses an 18% drop by the S&P 500.

"Although we continue to believe that rising supply will place downward pressure on refining margins in the near term, we expect Sunoco's share price to be one of the better performers in the peer group due to steady earnings contributions from its Coke and Logistics segments," Rousseau said in a note to clients.

Whiting Petroleum Corp. (WLL) fell 10% to $20.70 as it announced plans to scale back drilling rigs in the Bakken region from nine to four by November. Analysts at Pritchard Capital noted that the company's fourth-quarter earnings of 19 cents a share soundly beat the consensus target of six cents a share. The company managed to grow its production by 38% over the year-ago period, and 10% over the third quarter.  

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