TULSA, Okla. ( TheStreet) -- Helmerich & Payne ( HP) reported expectedly weak earnings on a day when the entire oil services sector slipped. Weak drilling activity across the U.S. was the primary culprit for a 59% drop in income: operating income for U.S. land operations was $90 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $158 million in Q4 2008. Operating revenue fell 38% to $362.2 million. It might not be any consolation to the company or its investors, but Helmerich & Payne was far from the worst performer in the oil services segment of the energy market on a day when the entire energy sector dropped close to 2% by mid-afternoon. The stock was down 1.83% to $37.48. In fact, just four of the 86 companies in the oil services sector were in positive territory during the day's trading session: North American Energy Partners ( NOA) (+2.81%); Energy Services of America ( ESA) (+1.64%); NuStar GP Holdings ( NSH)(+0.33%); and Inergy Holdings ( NRGP)(+0.30%). Two stocks that looked liked winners but ending the day slightly to the downside were Boots & Coots ( WEL)(-0.75%) and Allis-Chalmers Energy ( ALY)(-0.28%).
Among the biggest percentage drops in the sector were Hercules Offshore ( HERO) (-7.64%); Willbros ( WG) (-7.51%); Pioneer Drilling ( PDC)(-6.92%); Recon Technology ( RCON) (-6.83%); and Dril-Quip ( DRQ) (-5.91%). While Helmerich & Payne's earnings per share of $0.47 beat a Street estimate of $0.43, the larger issues for the industry pulled the company down alongside its peers. The company's net income for the quarter was $51.5 million compared with a net income of $126.5 million, or $1.18 per share, a year earlier, again pulled down by the lack of U.S. land drilling. The statement that the company was still trying to collect unpaid invoice amounts of $73 million from Venezuela -- income it has decided not to book until received in cash -- didn't seem to inspire any market confidence: collecting from Hugo Chavez could prove to be as hard an industry well to tap as any. -- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York. Follow TheStreet.com on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.