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Will Lower Realizations Hit ExxonMobil (XOM) Q1 Earnings?

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ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM - Free Report) , the U.S. energy behemoth, is set to release first-quarter 2016 financial results before the opening bell on Friday, Apr 29.   

The company reported stable results in the trailing four quarters, beating the Zacks Consensus in three out of the four, with a positive average surprise of 13.63%. In the last reported quarter, ExxonMobil’s earnings of 67 cents surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 64 cents by 3 cents. This was backed by better price realizations. Let’s see how things are shaping up for this announcement.
Factors to Consider in the Past Quarter

Almost throughout first-quarter 2016, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude traded significantly below the $40-per-barrel level. Most importantly, WTI crude fell to the 12-year low mark of below $27 per barrel during mid February. The low levels were owing to plentiful supplies and lackluster demand. Predictably, ExxonMobil’s upstream division was able to extract less value for its products. This is sure to put pressure on the group’s first-quarter profit margins, as it is the most oil-weighted among its peers.  

However, the company’s diversified operations should have offered some relief in the depressed price environment. Its downstream operations should benefit from improved margins and greater demand of refined products. Also, ExxonMobil’s consistent dividend payments and share repurchases score well with investors but must have taken a toll on its cash availability.

Overall, the company’s activities during the January–March period were inadequate to win analysts’ confidence. As a result, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for the first quarter declined to 28 cents from 31 cents per share over the last 30 days.    

Earnings Whispers

Our proven model does not conclusively shows that ExxonMobil is set to surprise this quarter. That is because a stock needs to have both a positive Earnings ESP and a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), 2 (Buy) or 3 (Hold) for a likely beat. That is not the case here as you will see below.
Zacks ESP: ExxonMobil has an Earnings ESP of -3.57% for first-quarter 2016. This is because the Most Accurate estimate of 27 cents is lower than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 28 cents per share.

Zacks Rank: ExxonMobil currently carries a Zacks Rank #3. Though a favorable Zacks Rank increases the predictive power of ESP, a negative ESP makes surprise prediction difficult.

We caution against stocks with a Zacks Rank #4 or 5 (Sell rated) going into the earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions.

Promising Stocks

Here are some companies from the energy sector that, according to our model, have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter:  

SunCoke Energy Inc. (SXC - Free Report) with an Earnings ESP of +150.00% and a Zacks Rank #1. The company is likely to release earnings on Apr 27.

TOTAL S.A. (TOT - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +9.76% and a Zacks Rank #3. The company is anticipated to release earnings on Apr 27.

Phillips 66 Partners L.P. (PSXP - Free Report) has an Earnings ESP of +1.85% and a Zacks Rank #2. The partnership is expected to release earnings results on Apr 29.

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