Updated from 12:56 p.m.
Shares of oil and gas producer
jumped 9% Wednesday after its first-quarter results topped estimates and the Energy Department released encouraging crude-oil inventory data.
In its earnings announcement before the bell Wednesday, Devon said weakening prices during the quarter more than offset a 7% spike in oil and gas production. Still, cutbacks in expenses compared with a year ago helped the company widen its profit margins.
Adjusted earnings, which excluded $4.2 billion in write-downs on its oil and gas properties, came in at $216 million, or 48 cents a share, well ahead of the 28-cent profit analysts were expecting on an EPS basis, according to Thomson Reuters.
Including the write-downs, Devon lost $4 billion, or $8.92 a share, in the quarter, compared with earnings of $747 million, or $1.66 a share, a year ago. Big non-cash markdowns have been common in the energy business this year to account for oil and gas prices that have plunged since marking historic highs last summer.
In its premarket release announcing earnings, Devon said revenue fell 32% to $2.03 billion. Nonetheless, that still exceeded analysts' top-line targets for the quarter of $1.84 billion.
Later Wednesday, Devon executives told analysts and investors in a conference call to discuss earnings that the company would be willing to explore the possibility of selling stakes in some of its Gulf of Mexico assets -- in effect seeking partners to reduce the expense of offshore drilling, which could reach as much as $1 billion a year.
Separately, data released by the Energy Department Wednesday indicated that for the week ended May 1, crude inventories rose by 600,000 barrels, well below analysts expectation of a 2.2 million-barrel increase, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information unit of McGraw-Hill Cos.
Optimistic news lifted energy-company shares in general on Wednesday, as several oil and gas concerns also reported earnings that surpassed expectations, including
, whose stock price jumped 10%, and
, which rose 3%. Shares of
, meanwhile, had moved up 5% and
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