Tomorrow's Chevron Earnings Could Move the Dow

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The stock market fell modestly Thursday morning as investors continued to assess whether the Federal Reserve's decision yesterday to maintain quantitative easing was good or bad for the bull market's future prospects. As of 12:15 p.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrials were down five points. But as earnings season rolls on, oil giant Chevron is next among the Dow 30 to report. After ExxonMobil's results earlier today, investors will have high hopes for Chevron to do even better.

Chevron will release its results before the market opens tomorrow, with the company having issued its previous quarter's report at 8:30 a.m. EDT. It will follow up its release with a conference call scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. EDT.

Chevron already gave investors a hint of possible problems, with its interim report earlier this month revealing that it expects third-quarter earnings to fall compared to the second quarter. Just as Exxon reported earlier today, Chevron said it thought that results for its upstream operations, which include exploration and production activity, would improve slightly. However, Chevron expected significantly lower earnings from its downstream segment, which is also consistent with what Exxon reported today.

The key for Chevron, though, will be whether it can follow Exxon's lead in boosting production levels. Exxon's report included a 1.5% jump in oil-equivalent production volumes, with growth coming primarily from more-valuable oil and liquids production at the expense of declines from natural gas. By contrast, Chevron's interim report showed a much more balanced strategy, with total expected year-over-year production growth of 2.9% coming from a 4.2% gain in natural-gas production and a 2.2% rise in liquids.

Chevron's different approach to the energy market should give investors a broader picture of the industry when it reports tomorrow, and topping Exxon's growth could be seen by investors as validation of Chevron's long-term strategy. For the Dow, affirming a natural-gas-friendly approach to energy could bolster the many initiatives that companies are contemplating to take advantage of the cheap, clean-burning fuel around the world.

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Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter @DanCaplinger. The Motley Fool recommends Chevron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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