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February is going to be a busy month for oil and gas investors. Earnings seasons are an eventful time for traders looking to make short-term bets on market reactions to earnings releases. But for investors with a longer outlook, year-end financial statement releases are a significant moment for us to re-evaluate our long-term positions, and review our sentiment about the future of our investments.

The following article will describe what to look for in the coming earnings releases for Chevron and Exxon:

1) Chevron (NYSE:CVX)

Earnings Release: February 1st, 2013 -

Conference Call: 11:00 am - link

Chevron has had a difficult second half of 2012 with a disappointing earnings release in Q3 2012, and unfavorable developments in the arena of lawsuits it is facing in Ecuador and Brazil. The share price has dropped from a high of $118 in September to a low of $102 in November, with the share rounding out the year at a price of $108.

Chevron surprised investors with its interim announcement on January 10, 2013. This announcement projected "notably higher" earnings for the fourth quarter than the third. In the upstream operations (exploration and production, 28% of 2011 revenue) with gains on assets and higher oil prices. Chevron projected an increase in downstream (refining, marketing and transportation, 72% of 2011 revenue) operations earnings due to the impact of timing effects, despite a "sharp decline in industry refining margins." The market's reaction to the earnings and the rallies caused by the resolution of the fiscal cliff resulted in a share price at the time of writing of $114.74.

Investors should note that there seems to be an underlying theme in this release of a positive earnings swing based on accounting gains and timing effects, and not on operational gains. Look instead for information on the margins in crude refining, and on output and margins in exploration as these are much more useful to assess the health of the operations.

Analysts expect total revenues of $68.5 B for the quarter, compared to $58 B in Q3 2012. Earnings are expected to hit $3.02 per share for the quarter, compared to $ 2.57 in Q3 2012. The share price has exceeded the S&P 500 in the first part of the year by 1.2% and far exceeded the trend at the end of 2012, indicating the markets optimism over the coming earnings release.

2) Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM)

Earnings Release: February 1st, 2013 -

Conference Call: 8:30 am - link

Exxon has been the much more stable and less volatile big brother stock to Chevron in the past few years. Exxon has a much higher percentage of its revenues derived from refining than from exploration, therefore tighter margins in late 2012 will undoubtedly weigh heavily on Exxon's bottom line. Furthermore, Exxon has struggled to keep pace in its in its upstream operations, with crude oil production 6% lower in Q3 2012 than in the prior year.

The market will be looking to learn of any progress with Exxon's latest behemoth drilling project of the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The Hebron oil field is a $14 B investment project of which Exxon and Chevron are the two largest partners with 36 and 27% respectively. The project seeks to capture a total of 700 M barrels of heavy crude starting in 2017 at a peak rate of 150,000 per day. This single project is a significant investment for both Exxon and Chevron, and could help Exxon revitalize its crude output in coming years.

Analysts expect total revenues of $117 B for the quarter, compared to $115.7 B in Q3 2012. Earnings are expected to hit $2.0 per share for the quarter, compared to $ 2.09 in Q3 2012. Since the beginning of the year, Exxon's share price has lagged the S&P 500 by 0.7%, indicating the market is not overly optimistic about the coming earnings release. Investors could profit from this opportunity to establish a long position ahead of the release.

Conclusion

Earnings releases are all too often swirling with short-term bets and emotional buys and sells based on guesses about positive and negative surprises. If you're an investor with a long-term outlook, don't get caught up in the short-term chaos but look to the full year results due out on February 1st to re-evaluate your positions with these two companies.

Both Chevron and Exxon are strong and stable companies with good dividend yields and decent valuations. This release will allow you to consider the future of their operations and their ability to sustain production levels and margins into the future to continue providing a strong dividend as well as share price growth.

Other Notable Releases

Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A) January 31, 2013

British Petroleum (NYSE:BP) -February 5, 2013

Marathon Oil Corp (NYSE:MRO) - February 6, 2013

Total S.A. (NYSE:TOT) - February 13, 2013

Disclosure: I am long CVX, BP. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Source: A Look At Chevron And Exxon's Upcoming Earnings Releases

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