At least for the bigger oilfield services companies, we can now look ahead to the next quarter, which will rear its reporting head in October and November.
Baker Hughes -- which performs a variety of services for oil and gas operators -- fell in with the other members of the segment in watching its earnings slide. For the quarter, it earned $87 million, or $0.28 per share, compared with $379 million, or $1.23 a share, a year ago.
However, the most recent quarter included pre-tax charges of $54 million ($0.13 per share). The charges were made up of severance and reorganization costs, along with an increase in the allowance for doubtful accounts. (Can you say "Hugo Chavez"?) The year-ago quarter also included a $0.13-per-share charge, that time involving a litigation settlement.
Among its many functions, Baker Hughes keeps weekly tabs on the number and location of working rigs. As you know, the number of rigs employed in North America has been cut drastically, primarily because of a glut in natural gas. Indeed, as CEO Chad Deaton said, "For North America, the decline in activity has been severe; however, in recent weeks the market has been stabilizing."
He added that, "Internationally, the decline in activity has been less severe and isolated to specific geographic areas." For instance, he noted that the Russian and Caspian areas appear to have bottomed, while the Middle East, Asia/Pacific, and Latin America regions are likely to "increase modestly." These trends show up in Baker Hughes' business, with overseas revenue relatively stable for the company while North American revenue declined 38% year over year.
My inclination is that Fools should avoid the oilfield services companies, including Baker Hughes, for now. My rationale is simple: Oil and gas projects are still being canceled right and left. Until that trend disappears, the service folks can't possibly come out on top.