EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG) started 2018 off with a bang by posting expectation-beating first-quarter results in early May. Not only did oil production in the U.S. come in near the high end of its guidance range, but earnings were well ahead of the consensus estimate. Those strong results, as well as higher oil prices, have driven EOG's stock up more than 20% so far this year. As a result of that strong showing, optimism abounds heading into the company's second-quarter report. Here are a few things investors should look for when the company announces its results later this week.

1. See if production met expectations

EOG Resources produced 359,700 barrels of oil per day (BPD) in the U.S. during the first quarter, which was within 300 BPD of the top end of its guidance range and 15% higher than the year-ago period. The company expects further growth in the second quarter, as it forecasts that U.S. oil output will average between 374,000 and 382,000 BPD, which would be 5% higher at the midpoint than last quarter. Given that the company has a history of hitting the high end of its forecast, investors should see if it continued that trend during the second quarter. Simply meeting the midpoint of its projections would keep the company on pace to produce between 387,000 and 401,000 BPD for the full year, which would be 16% to 20% higher than 2017's average.

An oil field at sunset.

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Look to see if the company announces another dividend increase

Like many of its peers, EOG based its budget on oil averaging $50 a barrel this year. As a result, the company expects to generate significant free cash flow now that crude is in the $70s. The company outlined its plan for this money last quarter, stating that it would pay down $3 billion in debt as it matures through 2021 and increase its dividend at a pace faster than its historical 19% compound annual growth rate.

EOG Resources already raised its dividend 10.4% earlier this year. However, given that it intends on delivering faster-paced growth, investors should see if the company announces another dividend increase in the second quarter.

3. Check out if it made any new shale discoveries

One of the keys to EOG's success over the years has been its focus on organic growth as opposed to pursuing pricey acquisitions. Last year, for example, the company announced that the Woodford Oil Window in Oklahoma joined its inventory of high-return drilling locations. The company said that it paid only $750 an acre for this land, which was much cheaper than what rivals spent on acquisitions in the area. To put that price into perspective, Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) paid $888 million for PayRock Energy in 2016 to get its 61,000 acres in Oklahoma, implying a per-acre price of $14,500.

EOG Resources has continued actively exploring the county for new oil growth plays. One area to watch is Louisiana's Austin Chalk, where ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), Marathon, and EOG Resources have all recently leased land. EOG said that it picked up 130,000 acres last fall, while Marathon and ConocoPhillips both announced that they leased around 250,000 acres in multiple plays this year, including the Louisiana Austin Chalk. Both ConocoPhillips and Marathon are still early on in their appraisal process. ConocoPhillips is planning a four-well test in the Louisiana Austin Chalk this fall, and Marathon is also still in the testing phase. EOG, however, is a bit further ahead and has already announced a discovery at its Eagle Ranch No. 1 well. Given that discovery, investors should see if EOG unveils the Louisiana Austin Chalk as its next high-return growth play during the quarter.

All eyes on the future

EOG Resources is on pace to deliver a gusher of new oil production this year, positioning it to generate a windfall of free cash thanks to higher oil prices. All that suggests strong second-quarter results are coming later this week. A great earnings report could be all the fuel that the stock needs to continue rising -- and the company could add a bit more by announcing another dividend increase and new oil discovery. That upside potential is what makes EOG such a great oil stock to buy and hold.

Matthew DiLallo owns shares of ConocoPhillips. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.