IRVING, Texas – Exxon Mobil Corp. cut spending on oil exploration, helping boost its earnings to $3.35 billion in the second quarter, doubling its historically low profit of a year ago.
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Profit rose for both production of oil and gas and Exxon's refining business. The results, however, still fell short of Wall Street expectations.
Crude prices are currently trading around $49 a barrel, up about 18 percent from a year ago, helping to boost the finances of Exxon and other oil and gas companies.
The Irving, Texas-based oil giant said Friday that it earned 78 cents per share, which was not adjusted for one-time items such as asset sales. Nine analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research expected 83 cents per share on average.
Revenue rose 9 percent to $62.88 billion, beating the $61.16 billion forecast of four analysts in the Zacks survey.
Exxon said higher prices it got for oil and gas helped offset a 1 percent decline in production of oil and gas.
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Exxon's exploration and production side earned $1.2 billion, an increase of $890 million from a year ago, despite a narrow loss in U.S. production. That profit matched the amount that Exxon slashed from capital and exploration, a 24 percent reduction from a year earlier.
The company posted a $1.4 billion profit from refining and selling petroleum products, up $560 million from a year earlier on higher margins.
Chairman and CEO Darren Woods said in a statement that the results were driven by higher commodity prices and "a continued focus on operations and business fundamentals."
Exxon spent less than it forecast on exploration in the first half of the year. CFRA Research analyst Stewart Glickman said that showed discipline but came with a tradeoff in production. He slightly reduced his estimates for earnings in 2017 and 2018.
Exxon is trying to boost production in the Permian Basin in Texas. It is also pushing ahead with drilling off the coast of Guyana in South America, with production expected to begin by 2020. The company has said that test wells hit high-quality oil reservoirs.
At home, the company is under investigation by state officials, who accuse it of misleading the public about oil's role in climate change. In May, shareholders voted to ask the company for a report on how climate change will affect the oil and gas business.
Last week, the Treasury Department fined Exxon for violating sanctions against Russia during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's tenure as CEO by signing contracts with a Russian oil mogul who was on a U.S. blacklist. Exxon went to court to challenge the fine.
Shares of Irving-based Exxon fell $1.67, or 2.1 percent, to $ 79.16 in afternoon trading. The stock has dropped 12 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has gained 11 percent.
Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on XOM at https://www.zacks.com/ap/XOM
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