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Tickers in this Article: XOM, CVX, XLE, NOV, SWN, XTO
Oil prices have moved above $60 per barrel after being down below $50 per barrel in February of this year. While still well below the $147 per barrel record price of last summer, the rising numbers are promising. Although an investor's initial thoughts of capitalizing on rising oil prices may yield names like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX) a review of the best performing stocks in the Energy Select Sector SPDR (NYSE:XLE) reveals a different gaggle of Texas-based oil service providers pushing their way upward.

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Oil Rig Systems

National Oilwell Varco
(NYSE:NOV), a supplier of oil and gas drilling systems, reported a 10% increase in revenues for the first quarter of 2009 (ending March 31) on a combined basis including its acquisition of Grant Prideco, a leader in drill stem technology and drill pipe manufacturing. National Oilwell Varco's CEO, Pete Miller, cited a notable backlog for drilling equipment as a major contributing factor for the oil service provider's positive results during the first quarter. NOV's stock is up 43% since the beginning of the year through May 21. (For further reading, see Singling Out Sector ETFs.)

Natural Gas Purveyor
Southwestern Energy Co.
(NYSE:SWN), an energy company focused on natural gas, increased its gas production 64% over the prior year during the first quarter of 2009 ending March 31. Average natural gas prices that were around $7.70 during the first quarter of 2008 were down to $5.94 during the first quarter of 2009. The decline in natural gas prices caused a non-cash impairment of Southwestern Energy's oil and gas properties contributing to a $432.8 million loss during the quarter. However, excluding the non-cash impairment, Southwestern Energy net income actually improved over the prior year to $125 million. An upturn in commodity prices could benefit Southwestern Energy given their increased production capabilities. Southwestern Energy Co. stock is up 37% since the beginning of the year through May 21.

Independent Energy
XTO Energy
(NYSE:XTO), one of the country's largest independent oil and gas producers, reported record production for the first quarter of 2009 and total revenues of $2.16 billion up 29% over the prior year. A combination of focused drilling and commodity price hedging has helped XTO deliver a solid start for the year. XTO Energy stock is up 15% since the beginning of the year through May 21.

The Bottom Line
One of the greatest gifts offered by ETFs is their ability to deliver instant diversification, freeing investors from having to put their full faith and confidence behind any one company. Since energy investments have proven to be fickle portfolio holdings, the XLE fund delivers a diversified mix of oil service providers and a host of other suppliers that should not be ignored. (For more, see ETFs Provide Easy Access To Energy Commodities)

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