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Stay Tuned for Oil Exploration Q1 Earnings: COG, EQT, RRC

The earnings picture this time around is more or less similar to first-quarter 2015. Oil price weakness persisted as before and the commodity dictated the market movement throughout the quarter as in 2015.

Till now, only 7.9% of the major oil players – included in the S&P 500 index – have reported their earnings as reflected in the Zacks Earnings Trend report. Of the reported firms, 33.3% have beaten our earnings estimates.

As per the report, the first quarter was gloomy for the oil/energy sector, with earnings projected to decline 110.4% year over year. Most importantly, the magnitude of earnings decline over the last two quarters has increased significantly. This anticipated downturn is likely to drag down the market (S&P 500 index in general) with a year-over-year decline of 9.4% during the first quarter. 

Investors should know that excluding the impact of the energy sector, the markets will likely fall 4.1%. Including the impact of crude, the market is predicted to go further south by 9.4%. Hence, the energy sector can easily be seen as a major dampener in the overall Q1 earnings picture.

What’s in Store for Energy Stocks?

The overall movement of oil prices in the first quarter is essential to any discussion on the performance of the sector. Crude mostly traded below $40 per barrel. Most importantly, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell to the 12-year low mark in mid February. Oversupply of the commodity is the prime reason for the oil price weakness. The supply glut was primarily a result of new crude output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members, especially the return of Iranian crude to the market after the U.S. removed sanctions against the country.

Natural gas has also not fared well as the pricing scenario of the commodity was weaker than the prior-year comparable quarter.

Definitely the scenario was unfavorable for the upstream energy players that include oil and gas exploration and production companies, and drilling and oilfield services players. This is because oil price has a positive correlation with the operations of these companies.

Given the persistent weakness in commodity prices, investors are eager to find out how oil and natural gas stocks will fare. Let’s take a look at the expected earnings performance of three major energy companies that are scheduled to post Q1 this week.

Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation COG is set to report first-quarter 2016 results on Apr 29, before the market opens.  The company has an Earnings ESP of 0.00% and Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Though a favorable Zacks Rank increases the predictive power of ESP, the company’s ESP of 0.00% makes surprise prediction difficult. The commodity price weaknesses will likely put the company’s profit margins under pressure.

Last quarter, Cabot posted an earnings surprise of 0.00%. In fact, during the last four quarters, the company posted an average positive earnings surprise of 41.67%. We’ll have to wait and see whether the company can keep its surprise streak alive. (Read more: What's in Store for Cabot this Earnings Season?)

EQT Corporation EQT is expected to report first-quarter 2016 earnings on Apr 28. The company has an Earnings ESP of +225.00% and Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Our proven model shows that EQT is likely to beat on earnings because it has the right combination of the two key ingredients.  

In the preceding three-month period, the company delivered a positive earnings surprise of 70.00%. Moreover, the company outpaced the Zacks Consensus Estimate in three of the last four quarters with an average beat of positive 72.19%. (Read more: EQT Corp: Stock Poised to Beat on Q1 Earnings.)

Range Resources Corporation RRC is expected to report first-quarter 2016 earnings on Apr 28, after the market closes. The company carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Though a favorable Zacks Rank increases the predictive power of ESP, Range Resources’ negative ESP (-15.39%) makes surprise prediction difficult.

In the preceding three-month period, the independent upstream energy company delivered a 9,750.00% negative earnings surprise. Moreover, the company posted an average miss of 2,371.43% for the trailing four quarters amid weak oil prices. (Read more: What's in Store for Range Resources in Q1 Earnings?)

Don’t miss out on our full earnings release articles for these three energy stocks, as the actual results might hold some surprises!

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Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. Click to get this free report
 
EQT CORP (EQT): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
RANGE RESOURCES (RRC): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CABOT OIL & GAS (COG): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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