People watch stocks for different reasons -- they're waiting for a dip in price, watching for a specific catalyst, gathering all the news and information that might affect stocks they already own, or considering a sell. Regardless of their motivation, we can better understand market sentiment by seeing who's watching what. With the Fool's free My Watchlist service, we have tens of thousands of people telling us the businesses that have, for whatever reason, piqued their interest.

With this data, we have come up with a new metric, watch interest, to inform investors what stocks their peers keep tabs on in each industry. In the case of the petroleum refining industry, watch interest is the percentage of people keeping an eye on petroleum refining stocks in general who are specifically watching each company. By looking at what stocks people are most interested in an industry, you can get ahead of the curb by finding hot stocks that you might have otherwise overlooked. The industry is undergoing a shift from integrated oil companies to splitting off the exploration and production side of the business from the refining business, allowing investors to properly value the refining business and the E&P business separately.

The most-watched petroleum refiner is...
Looking at the aggregate data, we see that ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) is above the rest in terms of watch interest, the percentage of people keeping an eye on petroleum refiners in general who are specifically watching each company. And for good reason. As CAPS player davfoo wrote last month:

Continues to be one of the most profitable companies in the world. It pays dividends. It is investing heavily in US Natural Gas as a hedge against oil uncertainties, while reaping the profits from those geopolitical uncertainties.

Here are the rest of the top 10 most-watched companies in the industry with their watch interest along with the stocks' CAPS rating to show the sentiment of our investing community.

 

Company

Market Cap (millions)

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Watch Interest

1

ExxonMobil

$406,008

****

27.4%

2

BP (NYSE: BP)

$139,123

****

17.9%

3

Chevron (NYSE: CVX)

$212,864

****

12.7%

4

ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP)

$107,299

*****

12.6%

5

Valero Energy (NYSE: VLO)

$14,929

*****

5.2%

6

Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO)

$23,264

****

4.9%

7

Western Refining (NYSE: WNR)

$1,872

*****

2.0%

8

Hess (NYSE: HES)

$25,372

*****

1.9%

9

Tesoro (NYSE: TSO)

$3,514

***

1.1%

10

Sunoco (NYSE: SUN)

$5,191

***

0.6%

Source: Motley Fool, Motley Fool CAPS.

Whether you're keeping an eye on the industry stalwarts like ExxonMobil or are watching an up-and-comer like Western Refining, it pays to watch. We can help you keep tabs on your companies with My Watchlist, our free, personalized stock tracking service. Click here to start now.

Dan Dzombak's musings and articles he finds interesting can be found on his Twitter account: @DanDzombak.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Western Refining. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Chevron. 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. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.