Energy stocks were ending sharply higher this afternoon, with the NYSE Energy Sector Index climbing 3.3% while the SPDR Energy Select Sector ETF (XLE) was up 3.6%. The Philadelphia Oil-Service Sector index was posting a 3.8% gain and the Dow Jones US Utilities Index was slipping 0.1%.
Front-month West Texas Intermediate crude oil was $2.15 higher at $72.61 per barrel after the Energy Information Administration reported a larger-than-expected drop in commercial inventories last week. The global benchmark Brent crude contract was increasing $1.89 to $75.49 per barrel while Henry Hub natural gas futures continued their recent rally, adding $0.20 to $5.46 per 1 million BTU.
In company news, Avangrid (AGR) declined narrowly after Wednesday saying its Vineyard Wind 1 offshore wind joint venture has closed on $2.3 billion of construction and term loan financing with a consortium of nine banks.
Aemetis (AMTX) rose 8.2% after saying its Aemetis Biogas subsidiary signed a standard interconnection agreement with Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG) and funded the final $1.2 million for installation of interconnection equipment to deliver renewable natural gas produced by Aemetis' dairy digester project in central California into PG&E's pipeline network for sale to transportation customers throughout the state starting during the final three months of 2021.
SM Energy (SM) climbed nearly 14% after JP Morgan raised its investment rating for the oil and natural gas producer to overweight from neutral previously and also increased its price target for the stock by $1 to $27 a share. Barclays also raised its price target for the company by $1.50 to $11.50 a share and reiterated its underweight rating for SM Energy shares.
To the downside, Battalion Oil (BATL) declined 2.7%, giving back a nearly 2% advance that followed a regulatory filing showing CEO Richard Little Sept. 10 bought 3,000 of the company's shares at an average of $7.85 apiece, increasing his overall stake to 16,397 shares. Other filings showed CFO Kevin Andrews and Grant Evans, the company's vice president for exploration, last Friday purchased 1,550 shares and 6,201 shares, respectively, while COO Daniel Rohling spent $34,000 on Tuesday to acquire 4,000 shares.