Exxon Mobil Corp., the No. 1 oil company, said first-quarter earnings rose
51 percent, as it cashed in on strong crude oil and natural gas prices as well as better profits from refined fuels such as gasoline.
Exxon Mobil posted
record first-quarter income, excluding merger effects, of $5.05 billion, up from $3.35 billion in the year-earlier period. First-quarter revenues rose to $57.28 billion from $54.1 billion a year before. Earnings for the Irving, Texas-based oil company
, which last year set a record for the world's highest corporate profits, surpassed most analysts' expectations, helping its stock rise nearly 2 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.
Conoco, the No. 4 U.S. oil company, also reported profits that were better than most expected. The Houston-based company said earnings rose 58 percent to $616 million, or 97 cents a share.
Calling it a blowout quarter for the oil industry, Fahnestock & Co. analyst Fadel Gheit said profits this year could even top those from a year ago.
"This is one of the best periods for the oil industry," he said. "But it gets very little respect -- oil companies are the Rodney Dangerfield of the economy."
While Exxon Mobil's stock outperformed the broader market in the first quarter, it still fell about seven percent as investors expected red-hot commodity prices to cool down.
Prices for benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude oil, however, averaged about $28.75 a barrel in the first quarter of this year, similar to the strong $28.82 it averaged during the period a year ago. And natural gas prices averaged $6.45 per thousand cubic feet, more than 2.5 times the $2.46 of the period last year.
Exxon Mobil's exploration and production unit, which feels the biggest impact from oil and natural gas prices, earned $3.8 billion in the quarter, up 37 percent from a year ago.
Crude oil and liquids production rose slightly to 2.619 million barrels a day, while natural gas output slipped after the company shut down wells in Indonesia for security purposes. - (Reuters)