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This column was originally published on RealMoney on March 21 at 2:53 p.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for readers. For more information about subscribing to RealMoney, please click here.

The energy sector has been holding up well against a short-term buildup in inventories. In my

column Friday, I said I still believed that oil's long-term supply situation is deteriorating against rising demand.

This supply-and-demand issue remains a long-term problem, and the International Energy Agency has already raised its 2007 oil demand forecast. However, the most startling estimate is that world energy consumption is projected to increase by 71% from 2003 to 2030. That could create an international problem.

When it comes to understanding the oil market, there are few better than legendary Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens. He recently stated that the relatively high crude oil prices are evidence that daily global production capacity is at or very near its peak. If demand for crude oil rises beyond the current global output of roughly 85 million barrels per day, Pickens says, oil prices will only go higher.

Rising energy prices spur the large major integrated oil companies to increase their budgets in order to find more supply and to develop and use new technologies to extract more oil from existing wells. For example,



has ramped up its spending budget by 33%, and



is spending 20% more on exploration this year compared to last year. This increased spending will give a boost to the drillers and oil-service companies.

This sector is far from having any major momentum or from breaking key resistance levels. However, some of the companies have recovered from the selloff in December and January and may be ready to work their way higher. Let's take a look at some interesting charts.

Ensco International

Over the past few months,

Ensco International


has been consolidating. Over the past week, it has held above its 50-day moving average, and on Monday, it broke above the $52 resistance level. The next area of resistance is at the December high of $55.75; if it can get above there, it may have a chance to take out the old April 2006 high of $58.75. Ensco's pattern has been very constructive, but we need to see increasing volume on up days. I'd keep a protective sell stop below the $48 support level.


Since its selloff earlier this year,



has been stuck in a narrow base. However, earnings are expected to rise dramatically this year. Technically, this stock needs to get above $80 and then challenge the December high of $84.23. If Transocean can accomplish that, we may see a new leg up and a resumed uptrend.




also has a very good pattern, and it has been consolidating over the past two months. It broke out of the consolidation Monday, but it quickly reversed Tuesday when the news of



estimate revisions hit the market. If Schlumberger can hold above $62 over the next week, it should have a good chance to move higher. We'll then have to watch how the stock reacts at last December's highs.

Noble Energy

Noble Energy


is building a nice high-level base between $56 and $59.50. The price pattern looks like it's preparing to attempt to break to new highs. A break below $56 would likely take the stock down to the 50-day moving average at $54, but a break above the $59.50 resistance level will probably lead to a new leg higher.

At time of publication, Manning was long Ensco, although holdings can change at any time.

Mark Manning, AAMS, is an Accredited Asset Management Specialist and Registered Investment Advisor with Butler, Wick & Co., where he specializes in wealth management. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Manning appreciates your feedback;

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