NEW YORK (
) -- The
fourth-quarter earnings report represented a fake-out.
That's because this will be the last bad "downstream" report from Exxon or any other integrated oil company with significant refining exposure. These bad numbers actually mean that energy stocks -- Exxon in particular -- offer a great opportunity right now.
report last week, Exxon's release tells an industry-wide story: profits are beating the Street's estimates, yet the refining section is turning in disappointing results.
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But these refining issues, caused by continuing weak margins between crude oil and refined products, are going to right themselves soon.
Even today's monster crude oil rally has been led by an even stronger rally in gasoline futures. As I highlighted in
in December, all of the refining chickens that I spoke about are coming home to roost.
And in refining stocks, we've already seen the beginnings of the kind of rally that made Valero one of my top stocks for 2010. Valero has already moved more than 15% since I recommended it in December, from around $16.50 dollars to more than $19.00 yesterday. Other pure refining plays have moved similarly.
You see, the Street knows that the fourth-quarter downstream numbers from Exxon and Chevron and soon-to-report
Royal Dutch Shell
news and likely to be the worst refining numbers we'll see for a long, long time.
With Exxon, though, the opportunity is even larger.
deal, in which Exxon paid $41 billion dollars for the natural gas company, has been received very badly by the Street.
It was hard to argue that Exxon got a bargain, but the company clearly doesn't care. Its conference call indicates to me that Exxon will leave no stone unturned in the search and gathering of energy -- any energy -- anywhere on the planet. And it is the new technologies in natural gas recovery that the Exxon/XTO deal was all about.
And Exxon doesn't ever care about its present earnings -- a not shabby $6 billion-plus, by the way. I remember former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond testifying in the Senate about his company's role in the prices of gasoline one particular summer. He was asked to explain Exxon's outsized profits for the quarter, and in the only instance that I ever saw him look angry, he shot back, "Senator, I don't concern myself with any quarter's profits, I concern myself with Exxon's profits five years from now!"
That's Exxon -- looking ahead. That's why it's paying too much, according to the analysts, for XTO, which accesses natural gas in a way that Exxon couldn't do before. The company's looking ahead.
And the beating that Exxon has taken over this deal makes its shares ripe for buying. Since peaking at more than $75.00, Exxon now trades at just under $67, a price it hasn't seen since the worst days of the overall market in April 2009. I'm actually sorry that Bank of America upgraded its call on Exxon yesterday, because I was hoping to see the stock go down a bit more before moving.
Still, you're not likely to see a cheaper price for the world's largest oil company again soon. I haven't recommended a consolidated oil company since I held and sold Chevron in the middle of last year, and I have been waiting for an opportunity to get another one.
With the downstream profitability issue about to fix itself, the domestic natural gas exploration and production piece covered, and the stock at a juicy valuation, I'm ready. The Exxon Mobil ship at last has come in.
-- Written by Dan Dicker in New York.
At the time of publication, Dicker was long Exxon, but positions can change at any time.
Dan Dicker has been a floor trader at the New York Mercantile Exchange with more than 20 years' experience. He is a licensed commodities trade adviser. Dan's recognized energy market expertise includes active trading in crude oil, natural gas, unleaded gasoline and heating oil futures contracts; fundamental analysis including supply and demand statistics (DOE, EIA), CFTC trade reportage, volume and open interest; technical analysis including trend analysis, stochastics, Bollinger Bands, Elliot Wave theory, bar and tick charting and Japanese candlesticks; and trading expertise in outright, intermarket and intramarket spreads and cracks.
Dan also designed and supervised the introduction of the new Nymex PJM electricity futures contract, launched in April 2003, which cleared more than 600,000 contracts last year alone. Its launch has been the basis of Nymex's resurgence in the clearing of power market contracts over the last three years.
Dan Dicker has appeared as an energy analyst since 2002 with all the major financial news networks. He has lent his expertise in hundreds of live radio and television broadcasts as an analyst of the oil markets on CNBC, Bloomberg US and UK and CNNfn. Dan is the author of many energy articles published in Nymex and other trade journals.
Dan obtained a bachelor of arts degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1982.