Oil prices are notoriously volatile, but industry leaders seem to be betting that they will continue to rise.

Industry research firm Wood Mackenzie forecasts that U.S. oil sector spending will grow by 23% to $61 billion this year.

It is no secret that fossil fuel extractors are happy about the Republican Party's return to the White House, especially with Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil, President-elect Donald's Trump choice for secretary of state.

But given the inherent volatility of the oil business -- it only takes tension in the Middle East or bad economic news from China to send prices back down -- is there a safe way to invest?

Schlumberger(SLB) - Get Report is one of the most reliable performers in this field. It has been the world's largest oilfield services company for many years, employing about 100,000 people in more than 75 countries.

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Its market capitalization is about $119 billion.

The company's share price rose in slowly but steadily last year, climbing from 70 to about 85. With the growth opportunities that are coming Schlumberger's way, that trend should continue for the rest of this year, at least.

Schlumberger's biggest deal last year was its acquisition of Cameron International, a manufacturer of oilfield equipment. The idea was that the merger would bring about corporate synergy by connecting Schlumberger's world-class digital-mapping technology and well engineering to Cameron International's drilling, flow control and processing operations.

The newly expanded company is facing a new rival, however.

Baker Hughes said late last year that it will merge with General Electric's oil and gas business.

Schlumberger and General Electric are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. See how Cramer rates the stocks here. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells SLB and GE? Learn more now.

The new company will have annual revenue of close to $35 billion, second only to Schlumberger's $38 billion.

With its history of adroit management, Schlumberger should be able to retain its leading position in the industry. It has firmly established positions all around the world, from the Permian Basin in the American Southwest to several lucrative sites in Russia.

Halliburton has been trying to wrest market leadership away from Schlumberger for years but so far has been unable to do so.

Schlumberger is responding to the challenge by expanding its business even more aggressively.

This month, the company revealed its acquisition of Peak Well Systems, a leader in the development of tools that allow drillers to control the flow of oil while preserving the integrity of the wells.

Schlumberger will release fourth-quarter and full-year results on Friday. That could be the moment that this steady performer rises to another level.


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Thomas Scarlett is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.