What: Shares of Oil States International (OIS -3.27%) climbed 20.7% in March. While there wasn't any news directly tied to the company's stock last month, an upgrade from analyst group Piper Jaffray and rising oil prices played a big role for this oil-field equipment and services provider.
So what: Oil States International is a peculiar case in the oil services industry. It has two separate business lines with very different drivers. On one side of the business, there is the company's offshore products segment that supplies equipment such as subsea pipelines, valves, and manifolds. For the most part, this is equipment that is used in projects that have already received the green light for investment, and so there is a longer tail of orders and revenue. This segment has helped to prop up the business through the low oil price environment while its other business -- well site services -- has declined quickly with shale drilling activity drying up.
That dichotomy has actually played well into the company's hands as it has been able to remain modestly profitable throughout the downturn in oil. Also, with its well site services, it should be able to rapidly catch on to any increased drilling activity that could come as oil and gas prices start to rise. In fact, a large portion of its gains last month came as the stock pretty much moved in conjunction with large jumps in oil prices. With oil prices now hovering in that $40-a-barrel range, we're probably starting to get to that point where companies are going to start at least thinking about drilling a well.
These factors, as well as Oil States' very strong balance sheet and cheap stock price, are why analysts said that they upgraded the stock to overweight.
Now what: Oil States certainly has some things going for it as we continue to work through the oversupply of oil and gas. Its backlog of work for major offshore projects underway has kept a steady stream of cash coming in the door while its services segment has struggled. As long as it is able to keep its balance sheet in great shape, it should be able to manage the rest of this market downturn. This past month's climb may have made it slightly more expensive, but the fickleness of Wall Street could just as easily send shares tumbling again if oil prices slip once more.