Some big oil firms, notably EOG Resources Inc. (NYSE: EOG) and Continental Resources Inc. (NYSE: CLR), have posted big gains in the second quarter, and a growing legion of analysts are beginning to tout both stocks as having big growth potential for the rest of the year.
Continental Resources is currently trading at $70 per share with a one-year average target estimate of $85 per share, according to Thomson Financial’s most recent survey of analysts.
At first glance Wall Street wasn’t waving pom-poms over CLR’s Q2 performance but a step back revealed a stock that’s ready to pop, according to energy market watchers.
On CNBC’s Mad Money, stock maven Jim Cramer said that Continental sellers may have jumped the gun too early -- even though earnings for the quarter were down about $30 million from what analysts had estimated.
Though the stock lost traction the morning after the earnings number came out, Cramer said sellers moved too fast. “If you just took a deeper look at this quarter, you would have realized that selling the stock was a mistake,” he noted, “There are more important metrics here, like production.”
But the stock rebounded quickly on Aug. 10, with Cramer pointing to a report from CLR that stated the company boosted its one-year production growth forecast to 58% and said it could increase reserves by another 20%. Altogether, Continental pegs production growth at 76% for the quarter, a surefire sign, Cramer says, that the oil company is set to build on the upward share price climb it’s seen since Aug. 2, when the stock was trading at $62 per share.
That said, Cramer’s not saying the growth would be quick – and neither is anyone else on Wall Street.
“Yes, Continental Resources increased its production numbers 58% year-over-year,” says Ben Dickey, a Houston-based money manager at BSG&L Financial Services. “One reason, short sighted I believe, is that they approved a $3 billion capital budget for this year.
“Their free cash flow will be approximately $1.8 billion, thus taking on debt, which is also very short-sighted.”
But Dickey says CLR is one of his firm’s core holdings and should remain so. “As each quarter’s earnings come out and production increases, their share price should appreciate,” he says.
Another big energy provider, Dickey says, has a similar story to tell -- EOG Resources.
“EOG is like Continental. They are greatly expanding their production year over year. They also have acreage in the Eagle Ford and Niobara. Both companies’ profits should also increase as more pipeline capacity for the Bakken and Eagle Ford come on line, reducing their shipping costs.”
EOG is currently trading at $110 per share, with a one-year target estimate of $123.70, according to Thomson Financial. Shares climbed 11.1% on the news of second-quarter earnings-per-share of $1.16, significantly ahead of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.92.
Its Q2 earnings were sharply received by traders and money managers (Cramer calls EOG his “favorite oil company”). Both Raymond James and Miller Tabel upgraded EOG in the past week to “Outperform” and “Buy,” respectively. Miller Tabek sees the stock climbing to $124, slightly ahead of the analysts surveyed by Thomson.
But Robert Gay, director of equity research at Gears Equity Analytics, notes that EOG is trading at the upper end of its six-month volatility range. He has placed the stock as “Neutral.”
EOG has also issued forward guidance for 2012, and is reporting solid progress in its operations in the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas and its Bakken operations in North Dakota and Montana. Altogether, EOG says production growth should reach 9% by the end of 2012. In addition, EOG reported a 49% year-to-year growth in its oil and gas operations for second-quarter 2012.
A new Street.com ratings report points to continued growth in the company and in EOG’s stock.
This from the research note: “EOG Resources has been reiterated by TheStreet Ratings as a “Buy” with a ratings score of ‘B’,” says the report. “The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income, good cash flow from operations and expanding profit margins. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had lackluster performance in the stock itself.”
No doubt, Q2 has been kind to oil and gas companies. But it would appear that the quarter was especially kind to Continental and EOG – two stocks that appear to pop during the rest of 2012.