Exxon’s Trump Bump is Running Out of Gas

January 30, 2017, 7:58 PM UTC

The Trump bump may be over for Exxon Mobil.

The oil giant’s stock got a solid boost after President Donald Trump’s election. There was a further lift in the oil giant’s stock price after Trump’s subsequent nomination of former company CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State. Exxon’s exit package for Tillerson, allowing the executives against corporate compensation rules to cash in his $71 million in the company’s shares and restricted stock units, raised eyebrows. But investors seem to think having a former CEO in Trump’s cabinet would be a positive for the company. Shares of Exxon (XOM) jumped 6.5% from $84.73 to open Nov. 8 to $90.26 to end the 2016.

But since the start of the new year, shares of the oil giant have slid back down to pre-election levels.

One reason for the drop is that despite the recent jump in energy prices there remain fears that oil prices are will stop rising, as the Wall Street Journal reported today. The price of oil tanked in 2015, bottoming out at under $30 a barrel. Since then, the price has come back up to over $50 a barrel, but it’s not so clear that it will continue the upward trend, which has made Exxon and other large oil companies cautious about starting big new projects. Instead, as they continue to recover from the bottom falling out of oil prices, they are mainly focused on reducing debt and making steady profits. The lack of investment now could translate to lost earnings down the road, but that doesn’t seem to be a concern for Exxon, which is more keen to try keep investors happy by funneling any extra cash it has on hand into dividends.

When the price of oil was falling, investors seemed concerned that Exxon might not be able to weather the drop, despite a diversified business model that makes the company less depending on high oil prices, as say a straight driller, or the fracking companies would be. With those fears gone, investors are focused on what will drive earnings higher, if not higher oil prices.

One project the company is involved in is of particular interest. Exxon recently bought 250,000 acres of land in the Permian Basin in west Texas for $6.6 billion. The company’s intentions in the area, including how aggressive it will be in building new oil wells and increasing production, are expected to be made clearer when it discloses its its quarterly earnings before the start of trading Tuesday.

Exxon is expected to report revenue of $61.5 billion and $0.70 earnings per share, according to analysts polled by FactSet. Both figures best Exxon’s numbers from a year ago. But increasingly it appears investors are focused not just on how Exxon is performing, but what’s next.

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