NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's likely that the reports from the big three integrated oil companies -- Exxon-Mobil (XOM) - Get Report, Conoco-Philips (COP) - Get Report and Chevron (CVX) - Get Report due out in the next few days won't move the needle much in their shares.
That's because much of what has been driving oil shares higher has been well documented and are already baked in share prices.
The most obvious of these has been the rise in the price of oil and gasoline, now hovering near $100 a barrel again after a short-lived downdraft that moved oil temporarily closer to $90 earlier this month.
But betting on another spike in oil prices here through the integrated shares is a dangerous one. The last four years of crude oil pricing has including big run-ups of course, but also some pretty spectacular declines that have chased money out of the oil market in a violent way.
In the last move down, even with the release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, we didn't see the kind of panic that has been needed to build the kind of base that would help lead toward another spike up. That's why, despite a running stock market nearer to the interim highs and a dollar nearer the interim lows, oil is still somewhat anemically drifting higher.
Fundamentally, the drivers behind oil stocks' rise of an average of 33% in the last year, well outpacing the rest of the S&P, almost cannot improve that much from here in the very short term.
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Refining, which has been a disappointment in margins for the past several years has benefited from the continuing disconnect between the
West Texas Intermediate
benchmark, traded on the
Chicago Mercantile Exchange
oil benchmark, traded on the
. But, at almost a $20 dollar differential, it's tough to imagine it improving much, while the refining infrastructure continues to get older and more rundown.
So, short term, without another oil price spike, there's little to drive the big integrated oil companies higher and the upcoming reports should do little to change their share price away from the direction of the general market indices.
So, how to play it? Well, if you have been buying integrated shares on the dips in oil, loading up on Exxon-Mobil under $80 and Conoco-Philips closer to $70, you're now supposed to be playing defense, either by selling a percentage of your holdings going into the reports, or by collecting premium by selling near to slightly out-of-the-money calls against positions.
That's because the possibility of a quick oil price drop from any headline news or another SPR release and can be much more powerfully negative to the prices of oil shares than the quarterly reports could possibly be positive -- at least at this particularly point.
The bottom line is that it's time to play a little defense with the big integrated oil stocks going into their second-quarter reports -- and wait for a better time to get aggressive.
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