How many oil service companies do you see reporting higher year-on-year results this earnings season? Halliburton (NYSE:HAL)? Hardly. Weatherford (NYSE:WFT)? Whiffed it.

Noble (NYSE:NE) is a bird of a different feather. Thanks to steady demand and long-term contracts in the deepwater drilling market, this contractor is riding high despite the industry downturn.

For the quarter, contract drilling revenue came in at $875 million, up 5% from last year. Drilling margins were a characteristically regal 71%, and net income was $426 million, versus $383 million last year.

Capital projects only chewed up about 71% of cash flow, allowing Noble to hoover up two million of its own shares. Year to date, the firm has repurchased 3.7 million shares at an average cost of just above $30 a stub -- about a 30% discount to where shares trade today.

Again: how many oil service companies do you see buying back shares at beaten-down prices these days? Shareholders should be smiling. This is a very special outfit.

At an energy conference earlier this month, management cited a survey which found that 2010 spending by the industry will approximate 2008 levels, with national oil companies (NOCs) like Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) and CNOOC (NYSE:CEO) leading the way. That bodes very well for Noble, given the firm's leverage to NOCs and super majors like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM).

On the conference call today, Noble's CEO reiterated this point, saying that "the market is starting to feel better again" as the industry heads into budget season. He followed this up by asserting that even if oil prices get cut in half from the recent $80 level, "Noble is in fantastic shape to take advantage." That would be an unwelcome development for Noble, Transocean (NYSE:RIG), or any of their peers, but it's good to see this top driller prepared for a wide range of outcomes. Investors should approach this volatile market in exactly the same way.

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Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.