According to a CNN report, CEOs from the nation's biggest oil companies face a grilling in Congress before a joint Senate committee hearing on energy prices and record industry profits.
The hearing, before members of both the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, will hear from CEO's of the nation's three largest oil companies -- Exxon Mobil (XOM)
, Chevron (CVX)
, and ConocoPhillips (COP)
, as well as the heads of the U.S. units of BP (BP)
and Shell Petroleum. The five will be forced to defend strong industry profits that followed the spike in gasoline prices in recent months. The executives could face hostile questioning from Republican lawmakers, who are usually their allies on Capitol Hill.
The profits of the oil and gas companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose about 62 percent in the third quarter to about $25.9 billion, excluding special items, compared to a year ago, according to earnings tracker First Call. Exxon Mobil reported the largest profit in U.S. corporate history during the quarter.
That jump in profits followed year-over-year growth of 42 percent for the industry in the second quarter, according to First Call, and full-year profit growth forecast to be up 49 percent. And the profits aren’t expected to disappear any time soon. Analysts surveyed by First Call expect industry earnings to be up another 13 percent in 2006.
Oil industry stocks have retreated about 11 percent from the highs reached in September when oil and gas prices were near record highs. But even with that retreat in stock and oil prices, the Amex oil index still shows a nearly 40 percent rise for oil stocks over the last 12 months.