Halliburton stepped into the earnings confessional this morning to report a third-quarter profit of $727 million, or 79 cents per share, up from its year-ago results of $611 million, or 58 cents per share. Revenue edged higher to $3.39 billion. The quarterly results include a gain of $133 million, or 15 cents per share, stemming from the recognition of U.S. foreign tax credits, plus a $21 million (2 cents per share) charge from environmental matters.

Today's results exceed analysts' estimates for the quarter by a healthy margin. The average consensus forecast called for earnings of 64 cents on $3.87 billion in revenue. Halliburton noted that it hadn't thought the $133 million in tax credits would be fully usable.

HAL plunged with the rest of the broad market on Friday, giving up more than 5%, but all sentiment indicators point to relatively high expectations heading into this earnings report. HAL's Schaeffer's put/call open interest ratio of 0.50 shows that calls double puts among near-term options, and this ratio is just 6 percentage points away from an annual low.

Similarly, short interest decreased by more than 3% during the most recent reporting period, and now accounts for less than 5% of the stock's available float. Analysts are likewise aligned in the bulls' camp for HAL; 13 of its 18 analyst ratings are buys or better.