Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
The stock market has spent today waiting on the Federal Reserve's latest report about its future monetary-policy plans. Uncertainty about the Fed's course of action has led the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) to a 17-point loss as of 12:20 p.m. EDT, shortly ahead of the conclusion of the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting to set future monetary policy. But beyond the Fed, earnings season continues, and oil giant ExxonMobil's (NYSE: XOM ) report tomorrow should provide a key reading on the industry that has driven much of the domestic economy's growth in recent years. Exxon's results will have implications not just for rival Chevron (NYSE: CVX ) and the increasingly energy-focused General Electric (NYSE: GE ) , but on the Dow as a whole.
ExxonMobil will release its results before the market opens tomorrow. It will follow up its release with a conference call scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. EDT.
Exxon faces a number of challenges in its coming earnings report. The company's earnings plunged by more than half in the second quarter, and although a big part of that income drop came from corporate restructuring, Exxon has struggled to find enough new projects to replace the natural decline in its production from existing wells. More recently, weakening oil prices have raised the threat of further revenue declines even if Exxon's efforts to stabilize production levels prove successful. Those are problems that Chevron also faces, but Chevron has been more successful than Exxon in finding ways to keep its production volume moving in the right direction.
But Exxon still has huge opportunities to improve its future results. The company's joint venture with Russia's Rosneft gives Exxon access to the potentially oil-rich Arctic offshore area of Russia's northern coast, and given the past success of energy companies in the north-polar regions, Exxon has reason to believe that more riches could be ripe for the taking. Other areas around the world also have promise, especially as unconventional production methods like hydraulic fracturing gain in popularity abroad.
Because of Exxon's status as a huge integrated oil company, its results won't necessarily reflect the same conditions facing smaller specialized energy companies. But for General Electric, which has stepped into the oil-services business, Exxon's snapshot of the industry should provide a gauge of where it can seek the best growth opportunities. And more broadly for the Dow, as more companies start to embrace the power of the energy industry in promoting overall U.S. economic growth, investors will need to pay attention to how Exxon fares in order to gauge the direction of the economy as a whole.
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