Due to ongoing geopolitical concerns, the price of crude oil has remained in focus for the past week as investors have bid up the commodity to nearly $100/bbl. Tensions in Egypt have been the main culprit for the rise as traders are growing increasingly wary that the revolt with spread across the region and destabilize many of the world’s most important oil exporting countries. This has had an especially large impact on the price of Brent crude which is the benchmark for oil in the European region but is often augmented by supplies from the Middle East. Thanks to ongoing worries that the Suez Canal may be shut down and that European users will have to rely on Brent for a short-period of time, the possibility exists that Brent could remain elevated with respect to its WTI cousin in the U.S. for a considerable time.
This bullish sentiment for Brent crude along with a robust earnings report from Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) yesterday, puts extra focus on European oil firms to deliver since they will have to show impressive earnings as well as good guidance for the new year. As a result, all eyes will likely now focus on another integrated oil giant, BP, in order to provide direction for the oil market going forward.
The British company is expected to report earnings of $1.69 a share and the company has beaten the last three estimates by an average of 15% suggesting that if the trend continues it could be another solid day for shareholders in the company. While the actual earnings number will of course be important to investors, the main highlight of the report is likely to be BP’s plans to reinstate its dividend to shareholders. Analysts call for the company to reinstate a dividend of roughly 42 cents a share or half of its former level. Additionally, investors will likely also be curious as to future of the $20 billion that BP set aside to pay for the oil spill last year. Obama’s oil spill claims chief said that up to $10 billion might not be needed suggesting that investors could have a potential windfall on their hands in the coming months, further adding to the pressure for the company at today’s earnings release.
Due to this, investors should look for the SPDR S&P International Energy Sector ETF (NYSEARCA:IPW) to remain in focus throughout today’s trading session. The fund tracks the S&P Developed Ex-U.S. BMI Energy Sector Index which is a benchmark that represents the non-U.S. energy sub-industry of developed countries included in the S&P Broad Market Index. The Global BMI Index captures the full universe of institutionally investable stocks in developed and emerging markets with float-adjusted market capitalizations of at least $100 million. The fund allocates roughly 9.9% to BP while also giving a decent amount of assets to fellow European oil giants Total and Royal Dutch Shell.
Like many funds targeting the broad energy sector, IPW has surged higher in recent months, posting a gain of 4.9% over the past month and 23.8% over the past half year period. Should BP manage to post robust earnings it could help to propel the rest of the international oil sector even higher on the day, pushing the fund to greater gains for long-term investors. If, however, BP fails to live up to the lofty expectations set by XOM and higher oil prices, look for IPW to underperform its domestic peers in Tuesday’s trading session.
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Disclosure: Author is long XOM
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