It appears that the long awaited, much antipated and greatly debated offshore boom part II is prepared to launch again, as offshore drilling stocks surged on Thursday as U.S. crude oil prices
hit a fresh nine-year high of $32.15 a barrel, fueling a second day of strong gains on Wall Street for the oilfield services sector. Drilling stocks across the board were flying high, some posting high single and low double digit gains for the day.
At mid-day R&B Falcon Corp.
was 1-1/2 higher at 18-1/8 and Santa Fe International Corp. was up 3 at 32-15/16 -- gains of roughly 9 and 10 percent respectively.
It was the second straight day of substantial gains for oilfield services stocks, though in a reversal of Wednesday's pattern, drilling contractors saw their stock rise more sharply than that of diversified service providers.
Analysts say the sector is poised to reap the benefits this year and next of the strengthening of international oil prices which has been under way since March 1999, and a report from Salomon Smith Barney predicts that this is just the beginning of a multi-year growth phase.
The analyst increased his share price targets for 11 offshore drilling contractors and said he saw average upside potential for their stocks of 70 percent in the next 12-18 months.
Top recommendations in the sector include Global Marine Inc., Noble Drilling Corp. and Transocean Sedco Forex Inc.