Jan 31 (Reuters) - Chevron Corp, the second-largest U.S. oil company, posted a fourth-quarter profit on Friday that just met Wall Street's expectations, as refining margins and production sagged around the world. The company reported net income of $4.93 billion, or $2.57 per share, compared with $7.25 billion, or $3.70 per share, in the year-ago period. The quarterly profit met expectations of Wall Street analysts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Oil and natural gas production fell 3.4 percent to 2.6 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in the quarter. Chevron said rising production in the United States and Nigeria wasn't enough to offset declining production at legacy fields around the world. Multinational energy companies like Chevron have had trouble replacing production from older, depleting wells and have spent heavily to stem the tide. Chevron spent $41.9 billion last year on capital and exploration projects, a 23 percent increase from 2012. Chevron said it has made "significant progress" on growth projects, including two massive liquefied natural gas projects in Australia and deepwater wells in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. "Major capital projects currently under construction are expected to deliver significant production growth and shareholder value in the years ahead," Chief Executive John Watson said in a statement. In refining, profit plunged 58 percent due to shrinking margins, largely due to price differentials between different types of crude oil. Refiners make more money when the price difference between various types of crude oil is wide. When the gap narrows in the price differences, costs tend to rise. Chevron rival Exxon Mobil on Thursday posted weakness in its own refining unit.
Shares of Chevron fell 0.7 percent to $115.69 in premarket trading.