The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES:^DJI) on Monday fell back from the record levels set last week, dropping 33 points as of 11 a.m. EDT. Even though bullish investors are still focused on the possibility of the Dow soon eclipsing the 17,000 mark for the first time ever, many market participants appear more worried about the global economy's ability to keep gaining steam during the rest of 2014. Even with the poor start for the index overall today, Dow energy components ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron (NYSE:CVX) are both rising this morning.
Oil prices don't appear to be the motivating factor for today's gains by Chevron and ExxonMobil, as both domestic and international crude prices are down about half a percent. Yet exploration and production companies generally have benefited from the longer-term upward trend in oil prices, and both energy giants stand to gain from rising revenue even as they look for new sources of production.
Still, some of the reason why ExxonMobil and Chevron are rising might have come from the reason why oil prices fell today. News that forces in Iraq had reestablished control of checkpoints at its borders with Jordan and Syria helped reassure oil-market investors that the situation in the key Middle East oil producer might not be as bad as some have feared. Nevertheless, with insurgents already inside the country, it'll take more work from the Iraqi military to return the country to its pre-uprising level of stability. Moreover, international investors will remain reluctant to count on any peaceful resolution lasting very long, and that could keep oil prices high for a longer period of time.
One key question that Chevron and Exxon have to face is how far prices can rise before consumers start to rein in consumption. In the past, the $4 per gallon mark in the U.S. for gasoline was a point at which drivers began thinking more about cutting back on gas use. But some economists believe that given changes in driving practices and increases in fuel efficiency, gasoline might rise even higher before consumption trends change. That would be good news for the refining operations of both Dow oil giants, which in the recent past have struggled somewhat under the strain of high crude prices compared to what refined products bring on the open market.
The Dow Jones Industrials won't necessarily move in line with the average's oil-stock components. But as some investors become nervous about the record levels in the Dow, any ability of ExxonMobil and Chevron to sustain their recent gains would be helpful in protecting index investors from a more substantial correction.