NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It's been a busy week of quarterly reports from the oil companies and there are a few recurrent themes among all of them. There's really nothing to change the strategy on investing in U.S. shale oil producers but one of them is showing me just a bit more value for the short term. That company is Devon Energy (DVN).
Clearly, depressed oil prices are being reflected in horrible earnings from all of the unconventional oil exploration and production, or E+P, companies. Some of the "beats" that are being recorded are merely "less bad" losses than were expected by the analysts. But oil prices have been rallying pretty spectacularly in the last few weeks, up almost 42% from the lows, and oil stocks have followed suit.
Lots of analysts have been trying to find a silver lining in recent quarterly reports from frackers. They have found another recurrent, this time positive, trend besides the big losses from lower oil prices: Efficiencies and costs to drill oil wells have been dropping and much faster than even the oil companies have promised or anticipated.
Horizontal drilling for oil is a very capital-intensive business, and the costs associated with a completed fracked well are the most important metric to a company's ability to complete more wells and increase production, growth and profits. This metric is getting much better. Anadarko (APC) reported a stunning 28% increase in efficiencies from last year and EOG Resources (EOG) maintains that it is as profitable at $65 oil today as it was at $95 oil three years ago.