Oilfield Services Spending Poised to Jump: 3 Top Stocks for 2018

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Oil has more than doubled since hitting the $26 mark back in January 2016. But despite the 100%+ increase in the price of the black gold, many investors continue to be underweight the energy sector. One thing is for sure: If the price continues to stay above the $50 mark, and moves closer to $60, capital expenditures are expected to jump. That could be good news for the oilfield services sector.

In a new research report, Timna Tanners at Merrill Lynch makes the case that based on what participants at the firm’s recent Energy Conference were saying, U.S. 0ilfield services companies seem confident that higher oil prices can lift spending in the coming year. This comes despite what some executives said during earnings calls for exploration and production companies in the fall.

Three top companies remain favorites at Merrill Lynch; all are rated Buy and could be great to own for 2018.

Halliburton

This company is still down almost 30% from highs printed last January, and remains a top large cap oil services pick at Merrill Lynch. Halliburton Company (NYSE: HAL) is one of the world’s largest providers of products and services to the energy industry. The company serves the upstream oil and gas industry throughout the life-cycle of the reservoir — from locating hydrocarbons and managing geological data, to drilling and formation evaluation, well construction and completion, and optimizing production through the life of the field.

Halliburton is the second-largest provider of oil services and the number one pressure pumping services provider worldwide. For investors looking for an oil field services company to add, this is arguably the best, and top analysts feel it will be a huge benefactor as the frac market has tightened significantly, and prices are 20% to 30% off the lows.

The company posted solid third quarter results that topped analysts’ estimates, driven by better pricing and increased activity in North America, its biggest market. Revenue from North America surged 91% to $3.16 billion in the three months ended September 30, due to a solid strengthening of market conditions in the region. Total revenue rose 42% to $5.44 billion. Net profit attributable to Halliburton rose to $365 million, or 42 cents per share, in the quarter, from $6 million, or 1 cent per share, a year earlier.

Halliburton shareholders are paid a 1.75% dividend. The Merrill Lynch price target is $50. The Wall Street consensus is slightly higher at $52.97. The shares closed Tuesday at $41.17.