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Whiting Petroleum (WLL): What's Up this Earnings Season?

Domestic oil and gas explorer Whiting Petroleum Corp. WLL is set to release first-quarter 2016 results after the closing bell on Wednesday, Apr 27.

In the preceding three-month period, the Denver, CO-based firm delivered a negative earnings surprise of 43.33% amid a challenging operating environment owing the sharp fall in oil prices. This was partially offset by strong production increase.

Let’s see how things are shaping up for this announcement.

Factors to Consider This Quarter

As a leading upstream energy firm, Whiting Petroleum’s business is dependent on commodity prices. The company, like its peers, has been affected by the sharp fall in commodity prices as it has able to extract less value for its products.

This year, during the January–March period, oil price hovered mostly around $33 per barrel. This is considerably below the prior-year quarter level of around $42 per barrel. We believe that the dismal crude pricing scenario will continue to weigh on the company’s bottom line.

Last month, banks took an aggressive step and cut Whiting Petroleum’s borrowing base by $1 billion owing to the decline in commodity prices and the subsequent erosion of the value of in-ground reserves. This cut in credit line, which is one of the largest in the ongoing price downturn, is expected to have an adverse impact on the company’s liquidity.

Nonetheless, the losses on the price front could partially be offset by cost cuts on the back of a lower rig count.

 Earnings Whispers

Our proven model does not conclusively show that Whiting Petroleum will beat estimates this quarter. That is because a stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), 2 (Buy) or 3 (Hold) to be able to beat consensus estimates. That is not the case here as you will see below.

Zacks ESP: Earnings ESP, which represents the difference between the Most Accurate estimate and the Zacks Consensus Estimate, is -1.39%. This is because the Most Accurate estimate stands at a loss of 73 cents, while the Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at a loss of 72 cents.

Zacks Rank: Whiting Petroleum’s Zacks Rank #4 (Sell) when combined with negative ESP makes an earnings beat prediction uncertain. In addition, the Sell-rated stocks (Zaclks Rank #4 or 5) should never be considered going into an earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions.

Stocks to Consider

Though an earnings beat looks uncertain for Whiting Petroleum, here are some companies that you may want to consider on the basis of our model, which shows that they have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter:

SunCoke Energy Inc. SXC has Earnings ESP of +150.00% and a Zacks Rank #1. The company is expected to release earnings on Apr 27.

Chesapeake Energy Corporation CHK has Earnings ESP of +9.09% and a Zacks Rank #2. The partnership is anticipated to release earnings on May 5.

Cobalt International Energy, Inc. CIE has Earnings ESP of +9.09% and a Zacks Rank #2. The company is likely to release earnings on May 3.

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