What happened

Shares of oil and gas equipment and services company NexTier Oilfield Solutions (NEX) are up 17.5% as of 11:30 a.m. EDT today. While there is no specific company press release or other news sending the company higher, there is a confluence of factors making Wall Street optimistic about its stock.

So what

If you're looking for some thesis-changing news story, there isn't one. The big stock jump appears to be tied to a few factors:

  • Domestic oil prices are holding steady above $40 a barrel, with a barrel of West Texas Intermediate trading at $40.28 a barrel.
  • The Baker Hughes rig count, a common metric used to measure oilfield activity, increased slightly to 261 total rigs deployed in the U.S.
  • The energy services sector as a whole is up significantly today, as the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Equipment & Services ETF is up 4.98% as of this writing.
Oilfield workers at a rig.

Image source: Getty Images.

All of these factors could hint that the oil and gas market is slowly recovering from an absolutely brutal first half of 2020, when an OPEC-fueled supply surge combined with demand destruction from COVID-19 lockdown policies. While we're nowhere close to recovered -- year over year, the rig count is down almost 70% -- any glimpse of positive news is going to send small-cap oil stocks like NexTier soaring.

Now what

Some see NexTier as an interesting play on the recovery of oilfield activity in North America. In addition to having one of the largest pressure-pumping fleets -- the crews that do the actual hydraulic fracturing of wells -- and other services related to shale, NexTier also has more cash on hand than total debt outstanding. With oil and gas companies struggling to pay the bills lately, that kind of balance sheet flexibility is vital. With its cash position equivalent to 78% of its market cap, the stock does look cheap on paper.

That said, NexTier's business is wholly dependent on a lot of things going right for oil and gas. Producers will need higher prices to justify spending more on drilling, and there is still a lot of drilling and pumping equipment sitting idle. Until we see both increasing prices and higher utilization rates for equipment, it will be hard for NexTier to turn a profit.