LONDON -- Oil prices surged this week on both sides of the Atlantic. Brent Crude climbed to $117 per barrel before settling down to end the week at around $114, while U.S. WTI crude rose from around $93.60 at the start of the week to trade at $95.50 when U.S. markets opened today. Natural gas looks set to end the week slightly lower and was trading at about $2.72 per MMBtu when U.S. markets opened this morning.
Rising oil prices spelled good news for investors in the United States Oil Fund, which was up 4% by this morning. Investors in the United States Natural Gas Fund were less fortunate: The fund was down by 3.5% on the week this morning.
Strong oil prices usually help oil explorers, but I've found three companies that have each outperformed oil and gas prices by a big margin in recent weeks.
San Leon Energy (LSE: SLE.L )
San Leon Energy climbed 20% to 12 pence this week and is up 16% today alone as investors bought into what is expected to be a chain of positive news. This week saw confirmation that a farm-in agreement will be announced shortly for San Leon's offshore Morocco blocks, where it has a 42.5% stake. Also material to the company's rising valuation is its 4.5% profit-sharing stake in the Barryroe field in the Irish Sea, while investors remain hopeful that San Leon's Polish gas exploration will deliver solid results.
Magnum Hunter Resources (NYSE: MHR )
Magnum Hunter Resources rose 12.6% to $4.39 this week, cementing a 20.9% price rise over the last four weeks. The U.S.-focused oil and gas explorer matched earnings expectations in its quarterly results, although it missed analysts' revenue targets. Magnum's proved reserves have risen by an average of 150% each year since 2008, and the company says it is on target to increase production from 13,400 barrels of oil equivalent per day to 18,000 BOE per day by the end of 2012.
Exillon Energy (LSE: EXI.L )
Exillon Energy has risen by 28% to 120 pence over the last 30 days. The Russian oil exploration and production company finally seems to have overcome a losing streak that saw its share price fall from a peak of more than 300 pence late last year. Rising production and a connection to the Transneft pipeline have helped, but the other big change is that Worldview -- a hedge fund specializing in identifying value situations in this region -- has taken a 10% stake, suggesting that it believes a deal is likely.
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