As the market prepared to slow down for a long spring weekend, Schlumberger (NYSE: SLB) and Weatherford International (NYSE: WFT) -- the largest and fourth-biggest members of the oilfield services contingent, respectively -- demonstrated Thursday that not all earnings misses are equal. But even more significantly, the two companies agreed that the future for the group appears bright.

All hail Halliburton
Let's begin with Schlumberger, the behemoth that is more than two and a half times the size of Halliburton (NYSE: HAL), the second services company down the line. Halliburton kicked off reporting for oilfield services earlier in the week by shellacking year-ago results and topping expectations by three pennies. It made for a formidable introduction, which places it alone in beating both its year-ago results and forecasts for the latest quarter. (Deepwater driller Diamond Offshore (NYSE: DO) also materially exceeded expectations.) Schlumberger's revenue climbed 45% year-on-year.

But despite missing analysts' expectations, Schlumberger produced a solid quarter and an encouraging outlook. The company earned $944 million, or $0.69 a share, versus $672 million, or $0.56 a share last year. Without one-time items, however, its per-share line reached $0.71, which was $0.05 below the consensus forecast.

For my money, however, the Wall Street "dart throwers" couldn't have forecast either the effects of political upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa or those of dicey weather in the U.S. and Australia. As such, the hullabaloo that's always made of a company's coming in beneath expectations assumes reduced importance here.

Bad weather behind?
Schlumberger has altered -- albeit clearly not simplified -- its sector lineup. As things stand now, reporting is broken down into three groups: reservoir characterization, drilling, and reservoir production, which together constitute oilfield services. The primarily seismic business of WesternGeco is included in all three groups and is no longer separated out. But distribution, which primarily occurs in North America, is treated separately.

In the most recent quarter -- with the aforementioned political upheavals and weather taking their toll -- the reservoir characterization margin declined, while the integrated project management approach to well construction overcame some politics and weather issues, such that drilling margins expanded slightly. The reservoir production margin was reduced by many factors, including an absence of year-end artificial lift product sales and the weather in North America.

Geographically, as was the case with Halliburton, North America was strong, and Latin America benefited from a change in the revenue mix. Europe/CIS/Africa pulled back on the political disarray and Russia's revenue mix. Further, the Middle East and Asia were affected negatively by Australia's soaking and -- you guessed it -- politics.

But to drag out a couple of my oft-repeated morsels, investing is far more about ferreting out what lies ahead than an exercise in rearview mirror navigation. At the same time, Schlumberger's CEO, Andrew Gould, routinely provides keen insights into the big picture for global energy. This time he and Paal Kibsgaard, Schlumberger's COO, created a promising picture for the company and its industry.

Kibsgaard spoke about WesternGeco, "where a number of contract awards in Marine emphasize the success of new technology, both in acquisitions and in processing." Gould then painted with a broader brush:

The absence of oil production from Libya, combined with continued recovery in demand, has reduced the world's spare capacity of oil production significantly. The call on both fuel oil and natural gas will increase as Japan recovers. ...The upturn in deepwater activity more generally is becoming increasingly visible, and the rate of permitting in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico is accelerating. Middle East activity is increasing substantially, led by Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

By golly, we're ready
He projected an increase in activity levels over the next six months and said that, "Schlumberger is ready for this scenario with new technology, equipment and people." Apparently the market liked what it heard, as indicated by a $1.89 per-share (2.15%) increase in the value of the company's shares.

Weatherford, the Swiss-based provider of services, received a somewhat different reception. After items, the company reported income of $78 million, or $0.10 per share, compared with $0.03 per share for the same quarter a year ago. The consensus had been closer to $0.18 for the first quarter, making for a sizable miss and obviously contributing to the company's shares declining $0.47, or 2.22% on the day.

As CEO Bernard Duroc-Danner said on the call, results were hindered by "the loss of North Africa as a region," a temporary loss of operations in Yemen and Bahrain, flooding in Australia, seasonal pullbacks in a number of countries, including Russia and China, and weather in the U.S.

A wondrous year for Weatherford?
But he expects, "2011 to show a 20% top-line growth over 2010. The mix of geographic performance will likely be different than we had originally anticipated. The year-on-year growth should be stronger in North America than in the international segments."

Nevertheless, the year will clearly have to be backend-loaded. During the call, CFO Andy Becnel guided to per-share earnings of $0.15 to $0.17 for the second quarter, compared with analysts' estimates of $0.20. Indeed, Duroc-Danner noted Mexico, the Middle East and North America, and Russia as areas where activity probably will strengthen as the year progresses.

Other services companies reporting this week will include Baker Hughes (NYSE: BHI), National Oilwell Varco (NYSE: NOV), and Hercules Offshore (Nasdaq: HERO). For my money, however, Schlumberger strongly merits inclusion on My Watchlist, our free stock-tracking service.  

National Oilwell Varco is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. The Fool owns shares of Schlumberger and Diamond Offshore Drilling. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

 We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares in any of the companies named in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.