NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If margins in the North America oil service business aren't quite falling off a cliff, how much closer to the edge will they come in the first quarter?
That's the question that Halliburton (HAL) faces when it reports its first-quarter results on Wednesday.
The extremely fluid nature of the North American drilling market suggests a clear answer -- one that's good enough to put all of the market fears to rest -- is likely to elude Halliburton management once again.
In its fourth-quarter report, Halliburton made the concession the market was waiting for. Management of the oil service company most exposed to the North American pressure pumping market said margins would decline further, but they wouldn't go over a cliff. It was a qualitative guidance comment given after the company delivered margins of 27% for its North American business, the lowest level in two years.The oil service stock trade has been driven by negative sentiment ever since, and that's the way it's likely to remain barring a clear-cut, quantifiable answer from Halliburton. Michael Marino, analyst at Stephens, said, "I think that is the biggest issue with anyone tied to pressure pumping. No one can define the bottom and I am not sure Q1 results are going to help that. This is why we remain EW
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