NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Quarterly earnings are beginning to roll in from the majors. BP (BP) - Get Report and Total (TOT) - Get Report have reported already, while Exxon Mobil (XOM) - Get Report and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) will report on Thursday. Chevron (CVX) - Get Report reports Friday.
All of these reports will not do much to change share prices because the expectations from all of these companies are pretty bad already.
Oil prices have lost half of their value since August 2014. Oil companies are reporting the lost revenue from the last three months of prices that have averaged below $55 a barrel. BP has shown a 40% decline for the first quarter of 2015 and Total a 20% decline . The companies that haven't reported yet will also turn in some harsh numbers.
However, all is not entirely bleak for the majors.
With lower oil prices come very strong profitability for the downstream (refining) portion of their business. While the added profits and growth from refining, transport and chemicals aren't nearly enough to make up for a disaster in oil prices, it is a buffer that the dedicated exploration and production companies don't have.
For investors, I like to break up the opportunities in the majors first by their relative value.
Today, Chevron and ConocoPhillips (COP) - Get Report have slightly outpaced the other majors, for the most part due to their more robust dividends. BP and Total have lagged, due in no small way to the relative strength of the dollar that has punished foreign oil shares. Exxon has recently been somewhat weaker than the other U.S. majors, and I believe the market is waiting for a big acquisition from the number one oil company. Shell has already made its big move with the buy of BG Group (BG) - Get Report recently, which does not augment their value, at least in the short term.
With all of this information, where can you invest? I tend to like Exxon marginally better among the U.S. majors, and still see BP as a good long-term investment based upon the company's rock-solid 6% dividend.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.