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On Dec 26, Zacks Investment Research upgraded Radnor, PA-based oil and gas explorer Penn Virginia Corp. (PVA - Snapshot Report) to a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

Why the Upgrade?

We remain optimistic about the firm’s near-term prospects, supported by its high-quality Eagle Ford Shale holdings, impressive oil production growth and continued strong operating performance led by an efficient management team.

Detailed Analysis

A turnaround story, Penn Virginia has re-designed its asset portfolio by making an active push into liquids (from gas) to grow its production and reserves.

Concerned by the volatility in gas prices, Penn Virginia’s capital program – since 2010 – specifically focuses on the promising liquids-rich Eagle Ford region in a major shift away from dry natural gas development. The company’s strategy realignment has led to a highly visible production-growth profile.

The recently concluded acquisition of sizeable producing and undeveloped acreage in the burgeoning Eagle Ford shale formation in South Texas from Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. (MHR - Snapshot Report) will offer Penn Virginia a meaningful production growth opportunity in the high-margin North American unconventional resource plays and further drive its overall volumes.

Another positive in the Penn Virginia story is its progress towards well cost reduction. The company has been able to cut down on completion and drilling expenditure on increased efficiencies. Finally, Penn Virginia maintains a stable balance sheet that will continue to provide the flexibility to fund its capital program and pursue bolt-on acquisitions.   

Other Stocks to Consider

Some other stocks worth considering in the domestic upstream sector include Harvest Natural Resources Inc. (HNR - Snapshot Report) and Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. (COG - Analyst Report). While Harvest holds a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), Cabot carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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