What happened

Shares of oil and gas producer PDC Energy (NASDAQ:PDCE) are down 13.2% as of 10:45 a.m. EDT today. The drop seems to be tied to the company's earnings release, but the release doesn't contain any information that should turn investors away like it has.

So what

Sometimes Wall Street does things that make you scratch your head. Today's stock price drop for PDC is one of them. There isn't much in the most recent earnings result not to like. Oil production is up 29% compared to the prior quarter, per-barrel operating costs are down, and earnings blew by analyst expectations. 

Multiple drilling rigs in a field

Image source: Getty Images.

The consensus analyst estimate for the quarter was a loss of $0.01 per share, but PDC posted a net income -- net of one-time gains for oil and gas derivative contracts -- of $0.19 per share.

Perhaps the one thing that might make investors nervous is that the company is outspending its cash flow. This has long been an issue for independent oil & gas producers as they put growth above all else. Looking at the company's long-term capital plans, though, it expects to post capital shortfalls this year and next as it builds out the infrastructure for its core holdings in the Wattenberg field in Colorado and the Delaware Basin in West Texas. After that, it projects a cash surplus. Management even mentioned that it plans to decrease its active rigs because it can achieve its planned growth with fewer rigs.

Now what

Investing in independent oil & gas producers is a rather speculative business because their profitability is so closely tied to the price of oil & gas. Even though oil prices have declined somewhat in the past couple of days, the current oil price is still above the price at which PDC can produce a profit. The typical things that would cause Wall Street to send an oil producer's stock tumbling -- missed earnings, lower production rates, overpaying for assets -- don't apply to PDC Energy today, so this drop seems a bit irrational.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.