TULSA, Okla. (

TheStreet

) --

Helmerich & Payne

(HP) - Get Report

reported expectedly weak earnings on a day when the entire oil services sector slipped.

Weak drilling activity across the U.S. was the primary culprit for a 59% drop in income: operating income for U.S. land operations was $90 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $158 million in Q4 2008. Operating revenue fell 38% to $362.2 million.

It might not be any consolation to the company or its investors, but Helmerich & Payne was far from the worst performer in the oil services segment of the energy market on a day when the entire energy sector dropped close to 2% by mid-afternoon. The stock was down 1.83% to $37.48.

In fact, just four of the 86 companies in the oil services sector were in positive territory during the day's trading session:

North American Energy Partners

(NOA) - Get Report

(+2.81%);

Energy Services of America

(ESA)

(+1.64%);

NuStar GP Holdings

(NSH)

(+0.33%); and

Inergy Holdings

( NRGP)(+0.30%).

Two stocks that looked liked winners but ending the day slightly to the downside were

Boots & Coots

( WEL)(-0.75%) and

Allis-Chalmers Energy

( ALY)(-0.28%).

Among the biggest percentage drops in the sector were

Hercules Offshore

(HERO)

(-7.64%);

Willbros

(WG)

(-7.51%);

Pioneer Drilling

( PDC)(-6.92%);

Recon Technology

(RCON) - Get Report

(-6.83%); and

Dril-Quip

(DRQ) - Get Report

(-5.91%).

While Helmerich & Payne's earnings per share of $0.47 beat a Street estimate of $0.43, the larger issues for the industry pulled the company down alongside its peers. The company's net income for the quarter was $51.5 million compared with a net income of $126.5 million, or $1.18 per share, a year earlier, again pulled down by the lack of U.S. land drilling.

The statement that the company was still trying to collect unpaid invoice amounts of $73 million from Venezuela -- income it has decided not to book until received in cash -- didn't seem to inspire any market confidence: collecting from Hugo Chavez could prove to be as hard an industry well to tap as any.

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

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