What's going on?
Oil’s recent upward slide hasn’t yet translated into bumper earnings for major oil companies. On Friday, French oil major Total and American sludgers ExxonMobil and Chevron reported underwhelming first-quarter results.
What does this mean?
Total reported a profit drop last quarter – its first since the end of 2016. A rising oil price meant Total could sell the record amounts it extracted at a higher price, boosting profit. But that was offset by weak profit margins in Total’s “refinery” segment – where it turns crude oil into things like jet fuel. Poor refinery profits were also to blame for Exxon’s weaker-than-expected results – but it’s doubling down, planning to spend $1 billion on making the UK’s biggest oil refinery even bigger and more efficient.
Chevron did beat profit expectations – though investors were more focused on its attempt to purchase rival Anadarko. Another slippery firm, Occidental, weighed in with a higher bid last week – and some Anadarko shareholders are calling for an open auction to maximize their returns.
Why should I care?
The bigger picture: When oil flies, airlines usually don’t.
Rising oil prices usually hit airlines’ profits by way of higher fuel costs in the months that follow. On Friday, American Airlines failed to launch: it lowered its annual profit forecast, blaming Boeing 737 MAX 8 turbulence as well as those higher fuel costs to come, having cut its revenue forecast just weeks earlier. Southwest Airlines, on the other wing, followed up its own recently lowered altitude with a better-than-expected quarterly profit late last week.
Zooming out: Driving through a mixed quarter.
French carmaker Renault on Friday said its profit goals for the year hadn’t changed despite reporting falling first-quarter revenue. And Mercedes maker Daimler may have to revisit its own after first-quarter profit there skidded below forecasts. Stateside, costly vehicle emissions regulations currently tinting European carmakers’ windows may soon be visited upon Ford: it’s being investigated for related wrongdoing. But investors still bought Ford’s stock on Friday after better-than-expected results.