Earnings Disappointment Sinks Energy Stocks

Mr. Market woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, and everything from stocks to oil is taking the brunt of the bad mood. U.S. economic growth of 2.8% in the third quarter was better than 2.5% the quarter before and came in 0.5% ahead of expectations. But a jump in inventory helped drive growth, and consumer spending was only up 1.5% in the quarter. That wasn't enough to impress investors, and as a result the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is down  0.85% late in trading.  

In energy, growth stocks are having trouble finding any traction today. WPX Energy's (NYSE: WPX  ) natural-gas production was down 6% from a year ago, but oil production was up 25%, highlighted by a 46% increased in production in the Williston Basin. Growth wasn't enough to overshadow a $114 million, or $0.57 per share, loss in the quarter -- nearly double last year's loss -- and shares are down 15.5% today.  

Like many other energy companies, WPX Energy is trying to make a transition to liquid-rich plays like the Williston Basin, but it's a painful transition right now, and investors aren't buying into the company's potential right now.

SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY  ) is another growing energy company, but it can't catch a break from investors today. Installations hit a record of 78 megawatts in the quarter, and residential installations grew 151% from a year ago to 60 MW. What investors are focusing on today is a $0.43-per-share loss in the quarter and expectations of a $0.55 to $0.65 loss per share next quarter, which is larger than expected.  

Again, growth is solid but not exactly what investors were expecting, causing a big pullback in the stock. What's important to keep in mind with growth stocks is the long-term trajectory companies are taking. WPX Energy is doubling drilling in the Gallup Sandstone play next year, and production from the Piceance Basin will pick up as well. That will return the company to solid growth and potentially a profit next year.

At SolarCity, the company is laying the foundation for decades of consistent returns, driven by more high-margin installations. That will drive shareholder value for years to come.

For both companies, the short-term reaction may be violent to the downside, but an eye on the end goal is key. WPX Energy and SolarCity are taking steps in the right direction in attractive markets. That's more important than Mr. Market's reaction on a bad day.

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