I'm bullish on those oilfield-services-sector companies with growing international exposure -- a group that includes deepwater drillers Transocean
Since Baker Hughes has been the keeper of the rig count since before quite a few Fools first saw the light of day, the company's presenter, CEO Chad Deaton, noted that the count peaked in September at 2,031 active North American rigs, only to slide by more than 50%, including 682 rigs in the most recent quarter. However, I think it's important to note that last week it declined by one whole rig.
The plight of domestic natural gas is concerning. That's because I agree with Deaton about a "new 800-pound gorilla in the room," liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is increasing in size and capacity. Indeed, he calls LNG the biggest threat to a recovery in the U.S. gas market for the next two or three years. I suspect that his timeframe may be a little too brief.
As he moved away from North America, he made a key point: First, unlike previous energy cycles, which were largely localized, this decline is taking place in the North Sea, Mexico, and even Saudi Arabia. And so, as he noted, the company must deal with two scenarios: "A North America that is weak, I think continues to look weak for the near future. And international that has been weakened, but I think is going to improve going forward." Part of his rationale: North America is focused on natural gas, while the rest of the world is concentrating on oil.
Baker Hughes, like the other big oil services companies, including Schlumberger
While Baker Hughes has moved roughly 50% higher since March, it's still well below half its 52-week high. Given all these factors, I'd suggest that Fools watch the company closely.
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Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't now shares in any of the companies mentioned. He does, however, welcome your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has an internationally prominent disclosure policy.