Will Exxon Continue to Drag Down the Dow?

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So far this year, Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) shareholders have seen their share prices decline 8.13% and 7.96%, respectively, making them the fifth and fourth worst performers in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. A few possible catalysts for the decline are in oil and natural gas prices.

A review of the fundamentals begs the issue of why each stock price isn’t down further. For instance, Chevron saw its revenue and net income decline year over year by 35% and 43%, respectively. Exxon Mobil fared slightly worse with revenue and net income declining 36% and 46%, respectively.

Fundamentals are not the only driving force in the stocks, especially over the short term. At times, it is about beating lowered Wall Street expectations. Chevron’s 35% fall in revenue was $10 billion less than analysts expected. In addition, it earned $0.58 per share more than expected. The same could be said about Exxon Mobil. Its 36% decline in revenue was $14 billion greater than Wall Street’s low expectations. Exxon Mobil’s earnings per share also came in at $0.35 better than expected.

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Analysts are not expecting a bright future for these two companies either. The Wall Street consensus has Chevron’s earnings pegged at $4.03 per share for 2015. At its current price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 11, this works out to $44.33 per share, representing a 57% decline from its current level of $103.08, as of this writing. Analysts collectively predict full-year earnings of $4.26 per share for Exxon Mobil. At its current P/E ratio of 13, this works out to $55.38 per share, representing a 35% decline from its current stock price of $85.08.

However, the market could tolerate a higher P/E ratio for these companies, assuming that hope for a turnaround remains. If that sentiment disappears due to worse than expected fundamentals, the downside for these two companies could be much worse.

Author William Bias holds shares in Exxon.