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Cabot Oil shares briefly hit all-time high

BOSTON (AP) -- Shares of Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. briefly rose to an all-time high on Monday as analysts said the drilling company continues to deliver on its strong growth prospects.

THE SPARK: Analysts with Jefferies & Co. and Baird Equity Research raised price targets for the stock after assessing Cabot's fourth-quarter earnings, announced after markets closed Thursday.

Jefferies' Biju Perincheril said in a note to clients that Cabot's results in the Marcellus Shale region in the Northeast "continue to surprise" and "could get even better." Perincheril estimated that by 2015, Cabot will have booked roughly one-half of its potential production in the Marcellus.

Baird analysts Maggie Savage and Michael Hall said that Cabot has a "best-in-class growth trajectory." They said the company's fourth-quarter financial results surpassed expectations "across the board."

Houston-based Cabot reported that its net income was $40.9 million, or 19 cents per share, in the quarter that ended Dec. 31, compared with $26.4 million, or 13 cents per share, a year before. Revenue rose to $369.9 million from $268 million a year ago.

THE BIG PICTURE: The Marcellus Shale is a rock bed that lies about 6,000 feet beneath parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. A procedure called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has made it possible to tap into deep reserves of oil and gas.

SHARE ACTION: Shares of Cabot rose nearly 2 percent to as high as $60.90 in opening trading before falling later in the session. In afternoon trading, the stock was down 58 cents, or about 1 percent, to $59.23.

Monday's intraday high topped the previous record of $59.90 that the stock reached Friday. The stock has doubled since hitting its 52-week low of $28.84 last April.