WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. (TheStreet) -- Covering Exxon's (XOM) - Get Report earnings without giving prominent mention to production levels is akin to camouflaging a void. The oil giant's earnings could, on the surface, look good--and they did. Its 3rd quarter net income, reported yesterday, was up 41 percent.
But--and this is a`but' the size of Bolivia--oil production was at its lowest level in six years. In an era of aging oil fields and a teetering economy, this `but' is essential.
The Financial Times served investors well in this regard. it mentioned from the outset in the first sentence how Exxon "suffered" a drop in production, noting that these "field declines" are industry wide. To its everlasting discredit, though,
--and others--merely celebrate the fact that Exxon net income was up sharply, focusing on that and that alone.
But missing the production issue is a bit like missing an oncoming train. Oil is progressively difficult (read: more expensive) to find. As a result, production levels have cost implications going forward. Moreover, higher oil company earnings that result from pricing and not production don't bode well for the economy. In 2008, for example, prices rose as production fell and it was a contributor to the sinking of the economy. All in all, an issue too important to ignore.
At the time of publication, Fuchs had no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this column.
Marek Fuchs was a stockbroker for Shearson Lehman Brothers and a money manager before becoming a journalist who wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column for six years. He also did back-up beat coverage of The New York Knicks for the paper's Sports section for two seasons and covered other professional and collegiate sports. He has contributed frequently to many of the Times' other sections, including National, Metro, Escapes, Style, Real Estate, Arts & Leisure, Travel, Money & Business, Circuits and the Op-Ed Page.
For his "Business Press Maven" column on how business and finance are covered by the media, Fuchs was named best business journalist critic in the nation by the Talking Biz website at The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Fuchs is a frequent speaker on the business media, in venues ranging from National Public Radio to the annual conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
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