We should give high fives to two more members of the exploration and production contingent: Murphy (NYSE: MUR ) and Hess (NYSE: HES ) , which both hit home runs Wednesday on the basis of skyrocketing oil prices.
El Dorado, Ark.-based Murphy earned $409 million for the quarter -- a number that in my day suggested a powerful, gas-guzzling, to-die-for engine -- or $2.14 per share. That's up, gulp, 270% on the net income line of what the company managed to generate in the first quarter of 2007. Revenue increased 90% in the quarter to $6.53 billion.
The difference for the company was, of course, those rampaging crude prices, along with a one-time gain of $39.9 million from the sale of the company's Berkana Energy shares. On the operating side, Murphy's average oil realizations reached $84.95, up 77% from the $47.89 year over year.
But it was not all four-baggers at the company. With refining margins shrinking, its downstream income dropped 71% to $10.2 million. In North America, the downstream sector yielded just $1.0 million, versus $34.5 for the March 2007 period. As you'd expect, down downstream results have been a consistent theme across the industry, hitting all the integrated players, including ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) and ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) , as well as independent refiners like Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO ) .
Hess "only" doubled its results, coming in at $759 million on the net income line, versus $370 million a year earlier. On a per-share basis, the most recent quarter's figure was $2.34, up from $1.17. Revenue rose 46% to $10.7 billion. Hess' average oil price was up 64% from a year ago, while its average natural gas price increased by 41%.
And like Murphy and the rest of the pack, Hess nearly struck out downstream. Its $16 million in earnings for the sector represented an 84% slide from last year.
So both Murphy and Hess slip in ahead of Occidental (NYSE: OXY ) , which had the prior lead in the group for earnings growth.
But with Hess' and Murphy's earnings going through the roof, I'll surprise you by suggesting that you stand aside and delay buying their shares for a while. Crude prices are almost certain to correct to the south for a time, and producers' shares will likely exceed the commodities' declines on a percentage basis. So be careful about letting the slide run its course before building or adding to positions in the group.