Oil prices have bounced around quite a bit this year. Brent oil, the global-pricing benchmark, started 2022 below $80 a barrel before soaring into the $120s following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It has since cooled off, steadily falling back into the $80s on global economic concerns.

However, OPEC recently took a step to stem the slide in crude prices by agreeing to slash its output by 2 million barrels per day starting next month. That move has already pushed oil back up into the mid-$90s. Crude could keep rebounding as those barrels start coming off the market next month.

With the prospect of higher oil prices, we asked some of our energy contributors what oil stocks they believe are best positioned to capitalize following OPEC's bold move. Here's why they think Chevron (CVX 0.52%), ExxonMobil (XOM -0.08%), and Devon Energy (DVN -0.17%) stand out as the top oil stocks to buy following OPEC's latest attempt to influence the oil market. 

This is the norm, not the exception 

Reuben Gregg Brewer (Chevron): Stepping back, the big story with regard to oil prices is that they were heading lower and then they started to head higher again, in a rapid and dramatic fashion. This time around it was news from OPEC, which is a common theme but not a necessary one. Oil and natural gas are commodities, and they are volatile -- hard stop.

Conservative income investors should see the current price moves not as a signal to buy or sell a stock but as a warning that it is best to err on the side of caution when selecting a long-term energy investment. That pretty much pushes you into the diversified integrated energy giants, a list that includes ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies (TTE 1.45%), BP (BP 0.82%), Shell (SHEL 0.64%), and Chevron. Of this group, Chevron currently has the strongest balance sheet, with a debt-to-equity ratio of just 0.17 times. It is, at least from a financial perspective, extremely well positioned to handle energy market volatility today.

CVX Debt to Equity Ratio Chart

CVX Debt to Equity Ratio data by YCharts.

Chevron also offers a fairly generous 3.9% dividend yield and an over three-decade long history of annual dividend increases, making it a Dividend Aristocrat. It hasn't managed through every up and down in the oil sector as well as it has this last one, but it has proven again and again that dividend investors are a top priority. Oil is volatile. Chevron has proven it can successfully ride the wave while protecting the interests of conservative dividend investors.

OPEC's move is a boon for this dividend giant

Neha Chamaria (ExxonMobil): With OPEC going for a surprisingly big production cut, oil prices are already heading higher in anticipation of a tighter oil market. As one of the world's largest oil exploration and production companies, ExxonMobil stands to benefit from higher oil prices. The impact, though, could be even more powerful now, what with the oil and gas giant's breakeven oil price falling aggressively.

ExxonMobil is targeting a breakeven oil price of only around $37 per barrel between 2022 and 2023. As long as Brent crude averages around this level, ExxonMobil can fund its capital-spending program and maintain its current dividend payout. That also means the company can generate a lot more cash at higher Brent crude prices and use that incremental money to not only fund growth but also repurchase a greater number of shares and pay out larger dividends to its shareholders. It should be a win-win for investors.

In fact, ExxonMobil's preliminary third-quarter numbers suggest its free cash flow during the quarter more than doubled year over year, driven primarily by higher production and oil prices. While oil prices cooled off in Q3, there's potential for a much stronger fourth quarter now if oil prices firm up. That should help ExxonMobil deliver exceptionally strong numbers for the full year and further add to the stock's appeal, especially among income investors as they look forward to a dividend hike from ExxonMobil later this month, which will also be the oil stock's 40th consecutive annual dividend increase. Add it all up, and ExxonMobil makes for one heck of an oil stock to buy now on OPEC's latest move.

Enhancing its ability to capitalize on crude oil

Matt DiLallo (Devon Energy): Devon Energy has feasted on higher oil prices this year. The oil and gas company's operating cash flow more than doubled during the second quarter, while free cash flow hit a record at $2.1 billion. That gave the company a considerable windfall to allocate on behalf of shareholders.

Devon used that money to pay a growing dividend (it pays a base rate and a variable payment of up to 50% of its quarterly free cash flow), repurchase shares, strengthen its already solid balance sheet, and enhance its portfolio. The company's total dividend outlay rose 22% in Q2, pushing its annualized dividend yield above 8%, while it has repurchased 4% of its outstanding shares this year. Even with that, its cash balance ballooned to $3.5 billion against $6.5 billion of debt. 

The oil company is using some of its cash to acquire additional cash-gushing oil properties. It bought the assets of RimRock Oil and Gas in the Williston Basin for $865 million and Eagle Ford producer Validus Energy for $1.8 billion. It paid around two times cash flow for those assets. Because of that, it's in an even better position to capitalize on higher oil prices following OPEC's latest move. That should enable it to produce more cash that it can use to pay dividends, buy back its wildly undervalued stock, and make other value-enhancing moves. 

Devon's growing exposure to oil prices enhances its ability to capitalize on OPEC's move to push crude prices higher. That makes it stand out as a top oil stock to buy to cash in on the likely OPEC-fueled rebound in oil prices.