But it may be time to sell your shares in the big oil companies. They face a growing number of challenges which are likely to more than offset the rise in crude prices which have pushed their stock prices higher.
The most obvious source of risk to big oil stock values is that the price of crude could drop.
New taxes may also threaten big oil's profits. Windfall profit taxes have been levied in the past, and President Obama recently suggested that Congress should repeal tax breaks for oil firms. Some Republicans are not convinced that's a good idea, saying that lowering profit margins at oil companies could cost American jobs. But oil company profits are an easy target for politicians. Americans are already deeply concerned about gas prices, and Congress will face an angry electorate in 2012 if gas remains high.
Oil stock values could also take a hit from increased costs related to oil exploration. High crude prices often lead companies to boost their exploration and drilling activities. However, since many of the untapped large reserves are in deep water or north of the Arctic Circle, the costs of attempting to exploit these new sources could be higher than in the past.
Exxon's share price is up 54% from its 52-week low. It's time to take profits.