BHI) is up 11% in the past five days based on much better margins -- and relatively low expectations. Halliburton ( HAL) is up 8% since its earnings, and trades at the lowest multiple in the group, at 14 times earnings. While Schlumberger, which trades at the highest multiple in the group and saw a tax rate increase that could impact earnings by 15 cents to 20 cents a year, according to Argus Research, is down since reporting its earnings beat last Friday. There has also been chatter that maybe liabilities were not as bad as they at first seemed in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. When Obama administration oil spill claims chief Kenneth Feinberg said he might not even need more than half of the $20 billion set aside by BP to cover claims, it was read by some as a sign of optimism about potential liabilities. It wasn't read that way by Argus Research's Weiss, though. "My sense is that some chose not to use the fund because of some of the associated limitations. You cap what you can get by using the fund." This view isn't based on, but is in line with the anti-claim fund rhetoric that the government and BP were more or less trying to rush claimants into giving up a much bigger court payday. In any event, the Argus analyst remains more attuned to any potential negative surprises from BP in regards to ongoing liabilities than a significantly changed-for-the-better oil spill outlook. -- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York.
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