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Ranking the Oil Majors: Earnings Recap

Tickers in this article: BP COP CVX RDS.A XOM
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Earlier Wednesday I was talking with Jim Cramer, wrapping up this quarter's earnings in the oil majors including Exxon Mobil , Conoco and Chevron . All had posted headline beats.

But looking inside the earnings, I said to Jim, that the last quarter is useful but only as an insight into how the next several are going to go. That insight, along with an understanding of the stock price action, is the best way to gauge which of the majors I'd like to be invested in and which I would more likely sell.

All of the U.S. majors had good things to report and some bad. Conoco only marginally beat its EPS estimates and guided lower for production from 1,500 million barrels of oil equivalent down to 1,450 -- not a good sign. Exxon throttled back its share buyback program from $5 billion to $4 billion, a driver that I loved in owning the shares for the long term.

While this isn't a reason to sell, it is a sign of some weakening cash flow at Exxon, even if it's only a very minor one. Chevron, while showing the best production outlook going forward, still has much to dislike in its downstream operations. With its outperformance in stock price also following it, I find it a far worse value proposition than many of the other majors.

Finally, Jim asked me to rank the majors in my preferential order and here I think I surprised him by moving outside the U.S. majors and naming BP by far my number one, with Royal Dutch Shell in second place.

I discuss my reasoning for these rankings in the video above.

At the time of publication the author had positions in BP and NBL.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.