Oxy Loves Those Commodity Prices

As expected, Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY  ) clearly has been one of the beneficiaries of the crude oil price run-up during the past year. Indeed, even a decline in its chemical sector earnings was nowhere near enough to derail the giant leap in the company's quarterly results.

Earnings for the fourth quarter of the year increased 56% to $1.45 billion, or $1.74 per share, from last year's $930 million, or $1.09 a share. Those numbers occurred on a 37% jump in sales to $5.52 billion.

You probably won't be surprised to learn that the biggest factor in the quarter's strength was its average crude price, which climbed approximately 50% year over year as the market rate tickled $100 a barrel in the quarter. At the same time, the average natural gas price was up about 20% on the quarter.

On a barrels-of-oil-equivalent basis, production was slightly more than 5% higher in the quarter than in the same period in 2006. Management expects the level to edge higher in this quarter. The chemical segment, where the numbers involved are much smaller than those for oil and gas, had a 40% decline in earnings.

Occidental's results followed ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) , which, as the first major exploration and production company to report, generated generally positive results. Marathon (NYSE: MRO  ) will be up on Thursday, a day before ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) and Chevron (CVX) will tell us about their results. BP (NYSE: BP  ) will follow up next week.

Oxy plies its trade in an interesting combination of locations, including California, the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico, and the Hugoton Basin of Kansas and Oklahoma in the U.S. Its overseas activities occur in such venues as Oman, Qatar, Yemen, and Libya. During the past year it sold assets in Russia and Pakistan.

Because of its operating strengths, along with my belief that crude prices are unlikely to dip for any length of time far below current levels and will probably retain a long-term upward bias, I urge my Foolish friends to take a careful look at Oxy. Few companies stand to benefit as directly from the world's changing energy picture.

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