Crude oil continued rebounding in April. The global oil benchmark, Brent, led the way, rising 7.7% for the month and closing just under $75 a barrel. This pushed it further above the U.S. benchmark, WTI, after it only rose 5.6% for the month, to nearly $69 a barrel.
Several factors fueled the rise in crude prices, including continued strong demand, high compliance by OPEC on its production cuts, and growing concerns of new sanctions on Iran. Those higher oil prices suggest oil producers like Royal Dutch Shell will make even more money in the coming quarters.
That optimistic outlook comes amid an already impressive streak of strong earnings reports by Shell, which was no different in the first quarter. The oil giant announced those numbers in April, which showed that it produced $5.9 billion in net income, well ahead of both the year-ago and prior-quarter's results. The company achieved those strong earnings by growing production to 3.84 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE/D) -- up 80,000 BOE/D from the fourth quarter -- while also reducing costs.
Another highlight in April was that Shell gave the green light to the Vito project, which is a joint venture with Statoil (NYSE:STO) in the Gulf of Mexico. Shell and Statoil were able to cut that project's cost estimate by 70% from the original design so that it's now profitable at $35 a barrel. The partners expect the project to produce 100,000 BOE/D of low-cost oil and gas when it comes online in 2021.
Royal Dutch Shell is firing on all cylinders these days. The company spent the better part of the past few years restructuring its business so that it could grow profitably, even if crude stayed below $60 a barrel. Because of that, it's now cashing in with oil in the $70s.
Meanwhile, with the potential for oil prices to continue improving, and low-cost production from new projects like Vito in the pipeline, Royal Dutch Shell looks like an oil stock to consider holding for the long haul -- even after April's big move -- especially by those seeking dividend income.