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Exxon Mobil Dow’s Biggest Loser To-Date in 2017

Paul Ausick

It's been another rough week for Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM). The stock is down 8.64% since the beginning of the year and the energy giant is the biggest loser of just five Dow stocks trading down for the year to date.

The share price closed the week up $1.38 compared with the prior week, mostly on the strength of comments by the company's CEO.

Exxon's new CEO, Darren Woods, will leave a good deal of his predecessor's plans in place, but he is making some major changes as well. Woods said last week that 2017 production would rise from a prior estimated range of 4 to 4.2 million barrels a day to a new range of 4 to 4.4 million barrels. That's barely unchanged from 2016 production and marks a significant change in the company's strategy.

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Exxon will spend about a third of its planned capital budget of around $25 billion on shale plays this year. Boosting production from shale is much cheaper and far less costly than developing massive deepwater or other conventional plays. Woods believes that investing in shale will generate cash flow more quickly without diluting returns. Because Exxon is vertically integrated it could capture more value than a producer who has to settle for the wellhead price of crude.

Woods expects shale production to rise by 20% a year through 2025 and to do so within existing industry economics. If it all works out as planned, Woods will have succeeded in making the energy giant a more nimble and responsive player in an industry not known for rapid change among the handful of huge companies that dominate the oil business.

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Exxon's shares closed at $82.46 on Friday, down about 1% for the day in a 52-week range of $80.76 to $95.55. The consensus 12-month price target is $90.00, in a range of $72 to $105 per share.

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