Q: How do you stand on the near term for integrated oil?
A: S&P's investment outlook for the international integrated oil and gas stocks is generally positive, on continued high oil and gas prices and a buildout of oil and natural gas inventories. We regard these "super major" oils as defensive investments, based on our view of their conservative accounting practices and steady cash flows, which are diversified internationally and across business lines -- [this,] we believe, mitigates commodity pricing and geopolitical risk. S&P believes U.S. economic growth will pick up in 2004, which should improve energy demand. Some of our favorite stocks in this area are Exxon Mobil (XOM ) and Occidental Petroleum (OXY ).