Halliburton reports tiny profit as the oil bust begins to fizzle out

Oilfield services giant Halliburton on Wednesday reported a small profit and  a stable workforce for the first time this year as the nearly two-year oil bust begins to fade.

The Houston company said it earned $6 million dollars in the third quarter after losing $3.2 billion in the second quarter and $54 million in the third quarter of 2014. Halliburton said that it maintained its global employment at about 50,000 workers, about the same as three months ago, ending the mass layoffs that swept through the company over the past several quarters. Halliburton has cut about 35,000 jobs in less than two years.

Chief executive David J. Lesar said the worst appeared over after “the devastation our industry has faced over the past two year,”  but added the recovery is just slowly getting underway, and won’t be more visible until next year.

“I never thought I’d be so satisfied with barely making a profit,” Lesar said.

Halliburton’s report kicked off the earnings season for the energy sector, which appears to have hit bottom in the second quarter and begun a slow climb back as oil prices have risen to about $50 a barrel and drilling rigs have returned to oilfields. Most analysts say the recovery will be slow and painful as the industry continues to work through a global surplus of oil and piles of debt run up during the boom.

Halliburton reported revenues of $3.8 billion, essentially unchanged from the second quarter, but down 30 percent from $5.6 billion in the third quarter of 2015.  Revenues from North American operations rose 9 percent, but that growth was offset by declines in other parts of the world, the company said.

“As we look forward, we expect an increased commodity price to stimulate rig count growth,” Lesar said in a prepared statement. “In the near term, we remain cautious around fourth-quarter customer activity due to holiday and seasonal weather-related downtimes. However, it does not change our view that things are getting better for us and our customers.”

The bleeding from job reductions seems to have largely stopped with Halliburton reporting a global employee count of 50,000 workers, nearly the same as three months ago. Halliburton has eliminated more than 35,000 jobs in less than two years.

Halliburton’s shares rose 5 percent in morning trading. The stock was up $2.38 a share to $49.45 at about 10:30 a.m. Central