Exxon Mobil's Profits Climb 39% on Rising Oil Prices

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world's largest publicly traded oil company, Thursday said quarterly earnings surged 39 percent on record oil and gasoline prices, rising production and its best refining results in 13 years.

The Irving, Texas-based company also increased the pace of its quarterly buybacks of shares in July, putting the energy titan on pace to repurchase about $10 billion of stock a year.

Exxon's second-quarter net income rose to $5.79 billion, or 88 cents a share, from $4.17 billion, or 62 cents, in the year-ago quarter. That matched the average analyst forecast compiled by Reuters Estimates.

Despite the strong profit growth and a 24 percent increase in revenue to $70.7 billion, Exxon shares rose only slightly.

Some analysts said results could have been even better, and pointed to overseas refining and energy production as factors dragging on the quarter.

"I would've expected a positive earnings surprise, given the environment," said Timothy Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Asset Management.

With soaring prices for oil, gas and refined products during the quarter, Wall Street had anticipated record results for global integrated energy companies which pump oil, turn it into gasoline and market it through service stations.

Anglo-Dutch rival Royal Dutch/Shell Group (search) earlier Thursday announced a 16 percent rise in profit, following the lead set by BP and ConocoPhillips (COP). ChevronTexaco (CVX) reports Friday.

For the past year, experts have predicted energy prices were poised to fall from their historic highs, and for the past year they have been wrong. Every week new issues emerge that prompt investors to pump up oil, gas and product futures.

On Wednesday oil futures set a new 14-year high of $43.05 a barrel, as worries about disruptions in Russia, Nigeria and the Middle East pushes aside bearish evidence of rising OPEC (search) production and building inventories worldwide.

So while sky-high prices may hurt consumers, Exxon's upstream earnings surged by a third to $3.85 billion. Worldwide average oil and gas production rose by 1.4 percent to 4.08 million barrels per day, as new fields in Norway and West Africa contributed sharp growth in oil output.

At the same time, soaring prices for gasoline and heating oil. plus growing consumption of gasoline and jet fuel in the United States and in Asia, generated stellar refining results.

Global downstream earnings surged 32 percent to $1.51 billion on wider margins, higher refinery output and sales volume in the United States, offset by weaker marketing results and lower overseas downstream income.

"We were disappointed" in the non-U.S. refining results, said Steve Turner, an energy analyst at Commerzbank Securities. "On the more positive side, they had very good chemicals results and they seem to have capex under control."

The chemicals business continued its recent turnaround to boost the bottom line. Earnings in this segment rose nearly fourfold to $607 million, the highest level in nine years, thanks to wider margins and record sales volumes.

Exxon's capital expenditures fell by 5.6 percent to $3.62 billion during the quarter, at a time when other oil companies are struggling to keep a lid on development costs.