Oil industry behemoth Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) said Thursday its third-quarter earnings rose to $10.49 billion, the second-largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company.

The report comes as high crude prices this year have fueled record profits in the oil industry, triggering an outcry from consumers who were being asked to pay about $3 a gallon for gasoline in early August.

Although crude oil prices began to decline toward the end of the third quarter, the average market price for crude held at around $70 a barrel in the period after peaking above $78 per barrel in July. Oil futures prices have recently traded near $61 a barrel, and gasoline prices have dropped to an average of about $2.43 a gallon.

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The world's biggest public oil company said its net income amounted to $1.77 per share for the July-September period, up from $9.92 billion, or $1.58 per share, a year ago.

The results surpassed the expectations of Wall Street analysts. On average, analysts expected the company to earn $1.59 per share in the quarter.

Revenue fell to $99.59 billion from $100.72 billion from a year ago, which saw then-record oil prices because of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

High oil prices helped Exxon Mobil realize earnings from its oil and gas drilling activities of $6.49 billion, up 13 percent from the prior year. The company also saw stronger earnings from its refining operations and gas stations, and profits at its chemicals segment more than doubled.

The largest quarterly profit ever was Exxon Mobil's $10.71 billion profit in the fourth quarter of 2005.

Its shares rose in premarket trading to $72.14 after closing Wednesday at $71.01 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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