I cut and pasted this from an article that appeared this a.m. in Forbes.com: ********* Merrill Lynch said the integrated oils sector is unlikely to match 2004's peak performance but added that 2005 may still be a strong year. The research firm reiterated "buy" ratings on ChevronTexaco (nyse: CVX - news - people ), ConocoPhillips (nyse: COP - news - people ), Marathon Oil (nyse: MRO - news - people ) and Exxon Mobil (nyse: XOM - news - people ), with target prices of $60, $95, $47.50 and $55, respectively. "The sector may be viewed defensively by the Street," Merrill Lynch said, "but we think its below-average market price-to-earnings ratios [and] high free cash flow yields justify ownership in an uncertain market." Among the trends that will affect the sector in 2005 are continued price inelasticity, a weaker dollar, demand from China, access difficulties and the stock market's lagging recognition of reduced levels of spare capacity. "Most integrateds have rationalized non-strategic assets, and will likely grow upstream volumes 3.5% per year through 2008," Merrill Lynch said. "We estimate that the sector will generate $32 billion in free cash flow in 2005 and note that most companies will have the least amount of fiscal leverage in decades." *********
Also, I note with interest only two MRO insiders have sold since 9/30/04, and neither of them is a chief officer. In the absence of insider buying and with oil prices likely to be stronger this May and maybe weaker in Feb. and March (IMHO), I don't plan to add to our MRO position right now. But I will look at it closely in March to possibly add.