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Is Marathon Petroleum (MPC) Set to Outperform Again in Q1?

We expect independent oil refiner and marketer Marathon Petroleum Corp. MPC to beat expectations when it reports first-quarter 2016 results before the opening bell on Thursday, Apr 28.

In the preceding three-month period, the Findlay, OH-based downstream operator delivered a positive earnings surprise of 17.91% on the back of higher contribution from the ‘Midstream’ unit following the completion of the MarkWest acquisition. Higher crack spreads and increased merchandise margin also led to the improvement.

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

Why a Likely Positive Surprise?

Our proven model shows that Marathon Petroleum – the fourth largest domestic refiner with a combined crude oil processing capacity of approximately 1.7 million barrels per day – is likely to beat earnings in the to-be-reported quarter because it has the right combination of two key ingredients.

Zacks ESP: Earnings ESP for this company stands at +5.26%. This is because the Most Accurate estimate stands at 20 cents, whereas the Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged a penny lower at 19 cents. A favorable Zacks ESP serves as a meaningful and leading indicator of a likely positive earnings surprise.

Zacks Rank: Marathon Petroleum carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) which, when combined with a positive ESP, makes us confident of an earnings beat.

Note that stocks with Zacks Ranks #1 (Strong Buy), 2 (Buy) or 3 have a significantly higher chance of beating earnings. On the other hand, the Sell-rated stocks (#4 and 5) should never be considered going into an earnings announcement.

What is Driving the Better-Than-Expected Earnings?

With U.S. gasoline consumption surging to an all-time high of 9.25 million barrels a day in March – driven by the motor fuel’s low price – profits for refiners (like Marathon Petroleum) are expected to be strong. 

Earnings are also likely to benefit from lower direct operating costs driven by the drop in purchased energy expenses.

Marathon Petroleum’s ‘Speedway’ (convenience stores) unit is primed for another strong quarter as lower gasoline prices continued to drive demand amid cost-cutting measures.

Finally, the ‘Pipeline Transportation’ segment – with its stable fee-based income – will provide much needed support to the first quarter results. 

Other Stocks to Consider

Marathon Petroleum is not the only company looking up this earnings season. Here are some companies from the energy space which, according to our model, also have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter.

Phillips 66 Partners L.P. PSXP has an Earnings ESP of +1.85% and a Zacks Rank #2. The partnership is expected to release earnings results on Apr 29.

TOTAL S.A. TOT has an Earnings ESP of +9.76% and a Zacks Rank #3. The company is anticipated to release earnings on Apr 27.

EQT Corp. EQT has an Earnings ESP of +266.67% and a Zacks Rank #3. The company is likely to release earnings on Apr 28.

Want the latest recommendations from Zacks Investment Research? Today, you can download 7 Best Stocks for the Next 30 Days. http://www.zacks.com/registration/pfp/?ALERT=RPT_7BST_LP194&...">Click to get this free report >>


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
 
TOTAL FINA SA (TOT): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
MARATHON PETROL (MPC): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
PHILLIPS 66 PTR (PSXP): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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