Go-Go Days For Oil Services Group?

Todd Shriber
 
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Last Thursday, I opined about National Oilwell Varco (NOV) and the $1.5 billion in Brazilian contracts the world's largest provider of oilfield equipment had just inked, arguing that this was indeed good news for U.S. trade and the jobs situation here. I will not repeat the entire column and if you need a quick refresher it can be viewed (HERE).

There was more good news courtesy of the oil services sector today and it came courtesy of Halliburton, the world's second-largest provider of oilfield services. The Texas-based company said it is going to add 11,000 workers this year. Obviously, that number on its own is not big enough to make a huge dent in the gloomy U.S. unemployment scenario, and maybe I am being a tad naive, but something is always better than nothing when it comes to jobs and we have to start somewhere.

Somewhere as it pertains to Halliburton will primarily be North Dakota and the Bakken Shale. Halliburton (HAL) executive Jim Brown made the announcement in a CNBC interview that was taped from the Bakken Shale, saying that his company plans to hire a variety of workers, from white-collar types with MBAs to unskilled staffers.

''If you have a willingness to work and an aptitude to learn with a high school education, within a year and a half to two years, you can become a front-line supervisor. That job will pay $125,000 to $130,000 a year,'' Brown told CNBC's Jim Cramer. ''What we're doing here, we're replicating across the nation.''

Chalk the Halliburton news up as another anecdote that underscores the boom in the oil services space, much of it thanks to North America's various shale plays, and the importance this industry plays in American job growth going forward. Earlier this year, Halliburton noted that its Bakken fracking crews were working around the clock due to demand that is far outpacing supply.

Only time will tell what all this means for investors and since this is not the space for specific buy or sell recommendations, I will just give you the news. It is pretty good as Bloomberg data illustrates that hedge funds bought $1.6 billion worth of stock in Halliburton rival Schlumberger and Ensco (ESV) during the second quarter. Among the funds loading up on Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield services provider, and Ensco, the number two provider of offshore drilling services, were Steven Cohen's SAC Capital and Viking Global Investors LP. Alone, those two hedge funds bought over $200 million in Schlumberger (SLB) shares.

Eventually, the oil services space will need demand in international markets to catch up with what has been seen in North America and there signs that scenario is in its nascent stages as international rig use is on the uptick and foreign countries are approving more drilling projects. A ''two-fer'' of regional demand, North America and international, could be the icing on the cake for oil services companies and serve to foster even more job creation.

Todd Shriber

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