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Pioneer says West Texas shale wells pumping more crude than expected

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Pioneer Natural Resources Co. lifted its 2016 production growth target without increasing spending because wells drilled in a West Texas shale field are pumping more crude than expected.

The company said output will grow more than 12 percent this year, up from an earlier estimate of 10 percent.

Pioneer will hold its full-year capital budget at $2 billion — a 9.1 percent reduction from 2015 — and pay for it with cash flow from oil and gas sales, money it already has in the bank and money received from an earlier property auction, according to a statement the company released Monday.

Output from shale zones known collectively as the Spraberry/Wolfcamp probably will expand by 33 percent this year, more than offsetting declines in other fields, Pioneer said.

The company’s first-quarter net loss widened to $267 million, or $1.65 a share, from a loss of $78 million, or 52 cents, a year earlier, according to the statement. Excluding one-time items, the per-share loss was 64 cents, compared with the average estimate of a 76-cent loss among 40 analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

During the quarter, Pioneer increased its hedging for 2017 to about 50 percent of its oil production from 20 percent, and boosted its natural gas hedges to about 25 percent of 2017 output from zero.

Pioneer released the statement after the close of regular U.S. equity markets. The shares rose 2.9 percent to $158 at 4:48 p.m. in New York., extending Pioneer’s year-to-date gain to 26 percent. That’s more than double the average advance for energy companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.


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