Shale producers like SM Energy are working to meet cash flow objectives amid continued investor wariness and a stock price beatdown. Investors are challenging oil and gas companies to keep up financial discipline and make shareholder returns a priority while managing growth.

Generally, small-cap companies, a group in which SM Energy is a part, have “gotten beat up pretty badly in the oil and gas space,” Ottoson said. But the situation will improve as companies operate within cash flow and start to reduce leverage.

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