Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) is a stalwart integrated oil company that offers very little risk to its investors. Exxon Mobil is the largest publicly owned oil company in the world, with stable earnings and a very consistent stock price that has remained between $67 to $87 over the past 52 weeks.
Currently at the year to date low of about $81, Exxon Mobil stock has stayed steady in the mid $80 range since the beginning of 2012. In the five months since January, investors have pushed Exxon shares against the apparent price ceiling of $87 no less than seven times. Along with the Standard & Poor's assessment of low qualitative risk, Exxon Mobil deals out a healthy dividend rate of $2.28 per share. Given these factors, I believe Exxon Mobil has prepared itself for sustainable growth. Coupled with the nature of oil and gas prices as summer approaches, I think Exxon Mobil is a valuable stock to own.
Due to regulation from the US Environmental Protection Agency, oil companies like Exxon Mobil must use a special blend of gas for the summer season, putting a cap on vapor pressure in gasoline. Oil refineries often are forced to shut down at the beginning of the season so they can adjust the refinery to the new blend of gasoline they need to produce. This temporarily lowers the supply of oil, and thus gasoline produced by companies like Exxon Mobil. As driving vacation season comes with summer, the demand for gasoline increases in the United States and the final outcome is a rise in the price of gasoline.
The United States Government has declared gas prices could rise to a monthly average of over $4 per gallon, 30 cents higher than last summer's average. For Exxon Mobil, this increase in price of oil and gasoline will lead to higher revenues for the summer months. Higher profitability for Exxon Mobil will please investors, and likely result in pushing the share price past that $87 ceiling.
While Exxon Mobil's profitability seems positioned to thrive with the approach of summer, it also seems to be making headway in the reduction of risk throughout the company. In an attempt to eliminate unprofitable parts of production, the company is subcontracting several oil and gas blocks in which they currently own a majority stake. The outputs of these blocks were "not satisfactory" according to an Exxon Mobil official from the companies Indonesian unit.
These actions by Exxon Mobil show me that even though it is the largest integrated oil company in the world, Exxon is not going to over expand its market presence in the oil and gasoline industry. As it pinpoints unsatisfactory segments of business, management is not afraid to make necessary adjustments. At the same time, Exxon Mobil is not content sitting at its current position in the oil industry, as it believes natural gas could be the predominant fuel used by 2030.
Showing an increased interest in helping the world convert to clean energy, both Exxon Mobil and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) have showed increased focus on natural gas production. These companies have made progress in the technique of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." However, there has been opposition to this process where water, sand, and chemicals are pumped underground to free the gas trapped in rock. The process was suspended for a short time in the United Kingdom after being connected to the occurrence of multiple earthquakes. Similarly, it was banned in France and Bulgaria over environmental concerns.
Exxon Mobil shareholders will be voting on a proposal for increased disclosure of the environmental impacts of the hydraulic fracturing. This could help them learn about the risks, costs, and benefits of the technique. Exxon Mobil is against the proposal since it may be costly to gather and disclose the information. Furthermore, management stated they already have a risk-management and public information system regarding concerns over fracking.
Imports of natural gas to the European Union are expected to increase 74% by 2035, which has the potential to be a huge growth opportunity for Exxon Mobil, if they can access the fuel in an efficient, safe manner. The future of Exxon Mobil in the natural gas industry is just another reason its stock could have sustainable growth going forward.
Chevron, the second largest oil company by market cap, has declared it will not halt operations at the offshore oil fields near Brazil, which experienced multiple oil spills in that area in the past year. Chevron executives could face jail time, and billions of dollars of fines for the various oil leaks.
Chevron stock endured some volatility, and a drop of almost $20 per share with the oil leaks last fall, but has recovered nicely and has remained in a very stable range near the $100 per share mark. I think Chevron is also an attractive stock to own.
Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE:RDS.A), the Europe based firm, announced the construction plans for a multi-billion dollar liquid natural gas plant in Canada, making a substantial commitment to clean energy and gas to liquids technology. The company has also increased its focus on cost control and improving economies of scale - both of which can increase the profitability of Royal Dutch Shell and in the long run, increase stock value for shareholders.
BP (NYSE:BP), Total (NYSE:TOT), Chevron, and Royal Dutch Shell have all increased their stakes in the biofuel industry. Biofuel companies are entering into an important period, with a new generation of production facilities set to come out in the next few years. With some breaks in technology, these biofuels could become equally, if not more important, than natural gas for the clean energy movement. These companies could capitalize on this industry in the near future, which would really help stock in the energy sector.
Overall, I think the integrated oil sector of the economy is a great investment. You will invest in products, oil and gasoline, that are extremely important to society in more than one way, and these same companies also seem to be searching for the best, clean energy alternative to oil. It is likely that there will always be a high demand for these goods, whether it is oil or a cleaner energy like natural gas. Exxon Mobil is a great buy due to its consistent stock price, nice dividend, and potential long-term growth in both the oil and the clean energy market.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.