U.S. Markets

Shares of shale firms Concho, Diamondback, Devon rise on dividend hike 'fireworks'

(Reuters) - Shares of U.S. shale producers Concho Resources CXO.N, Devon Energy DVN.N and Diamondback Energy FANG.O rose on Wednesday after the companies hiked dividends and posted profits that beat Wall Street expectations.

After a decade of poor stock performance, U.S. oil producers have been under pressure from investors to cut back on drilling new wells and instead return cash to shareholders through dividends and buybacks.

“The dividend fireworks blaze a bright light in a dark sky for oil & gas stocks,” analyst Paul Sankey at Mizuho Securities said.

Shares of Diamondback jumped 6.3% to close at $79.29, Concho closed up 7.6% to $82.45 and Devon was up 2.5% to $22.72.

Rival shale producer Pioneer Natural Resources PXD.N also said on Wednesday after the market close that it would raise its quarterly cash dividend by 25% to 55 cents per share. Its shares rose 2.7% to $145.00 in extended trade.

Diamondback doubled its dividend to $0.37 per share and said it plans more increases. “I think the only consistent message we’ve heard from our large shareholders is that they want the dividend larger sooner,” said Kaes Van’t Hof, chief financial officer, on a call with analysts.

Concho said it would increase its quarterly dividend by 60% to $0.20 per share, while Devon raised its by 22% to $0.11 per share.

Each company beat Wall Street earnings expectations and indicated subdued spending plans for 2020.

Concho lowered its 2020 capital expenditure to between $2.6 billion and $2.8 billion, the midpoint of which is 10% lower than last year, while Devon lowered the top end of its 2020 exploration and production budget by $50 million to a range of $1.7 billion to $1.85 billion.

Diamondback’s plans to spend $2.8 billion to $3 billion in 2020 were broadly flat compared with last year.

Reporting by Jennifer Hiller in Houston; Editing by Tom Brown and Matthew Lewis