Oilfield servicer Schlumberger (SLB - Get Report) hasn't caught as many headlines now that oil prices have been lingering sideways for much of 2012. It hasn't caught much of a bid either -- shares of SLB are only up around 3% since the start of the year, underperforming the broad market by a big margin. But investors shouldn't ignore what's going on in this energy play right now.
The Schlumberger logo is a familiar site at oilfields. The firm provides specialized services like seismic surveys and well drilling and positioning. In other words, Schlumberger's expertise lies in helping E&P firms pull their oil out of their prospects. Even though oil prices have been slugging it out sideways, the important thing is that they've been lingering near historical highs, prices that make more projects economically feasible right now. More projects means more revenue-producing jobs for Schlumberger.
While the firm has a presence in more than 85 countries, it's not surprising that some of Schlumberger's biggest customers are U.S.-based oil companies. But the firm has been courting E&P's based elsewhere in recent years, focusing primarily on deals in Russia and China. That diversifications helps to shed some political and commodity risk. As a service provider, SLB generates considerable cash -- but recently, that cash has been growing at a faster clip than the firm's dividend. That leaves the way for a hike to Schlumberger's 27.5-cent quarterly dividend.Currently the firm offers investors a 1.56% yield. BlackRock BlackRock (BLK - Get Report) knows a thing or two about income investing -- and not just because it yields 3% right now. BlackRock is the biggest investment manager in the world, with around $3.7 trillion in assets under management. Originally, BlackRock was best known as a skilled fixed-income shop, but the acquisition of Barclays Global Investors in the wake of the recession dramatically boosted BLK's exposure to equities. Despite the change, the firm's reputation as a fixed-income powerhouse helped it to take full advantage of the treasury rally that's been roaring as risk-averse investors poured all of their assets into risk-free government debt. Right now, BlackRock boasts attractive asset allocations across the firm. Currently, less than half of BLK's funds are in equities, around a third is in fixed income, and the rest sits in alternatives. That's less equity exposure than most conventional investment managers hold, a good thing when investors are anxious about investing in stocks -- but at the same time, it's big enough exposure to materially boost assets under management (and fee income) if stocks do rally from here.