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Exxon Mobil Profit Falls for Quarter, Hits Record $10.7 Billion for Year

Exxon Mobil fourth-quarter earnings fell 4.3% on lower natural gas prices and shrinking gasoline margins.

Net income at the Irving, Texas, oil giant slipped to $10.25 billion, or $1.76 a share, from $10.71 billion, or $1.71 a share, a year earlier. Although earnings fell, per-share results rose because Exxon bought back a large amount of its own stock.

Excluding one-time items, Exxon Mobil, the world's largest publicly traded company, earned $1.69 a share, topping analysts' expectations. On average, analysts had called for earnings of $1.51 a share, according to a Thomson Financial poll.

Revenue fell 9.3% to $90.03 billion.

Despite the lower quarterly income, Exxon Mobil's annual profit managed top last year's record results, and set the bar higher for the largest annual profit ever posted by a U.S. company.

For the year, Exxon's net income was $39.13 billion, up 9.3% from last year. Revenue increased 1.9% to $377.64 billion.

Exxon Mobil's record results followed a year of extraordinarily high energy prices as crude oil topped $78 a barrel in the summer -- driving up average gasoline prices in the United States to more than $3 a gallon. Prices retreated later in the year, and contributed to the decline in the latest quarter.

Fourth-quarter capital spending fell 4.9% to $5.07 billion, but fully-year spending rose 12% to $19.86 billion as Exxon attempts to increase its reserves.

Upstream earnings - the company's oil-and-gas production business - fell 12% to $6.22 bilion on lower natural gas price realization and weaker volume driven by lower European demand.

On an oil-equivalent basis, production fell 1% from last year's fourth quarter. However, excluding the impact of asset sales , production rose 2%.

At Exxon's downstream business, or its refining and marketing operations, the company saw profit fall 18% to $1.96 billion.

Chemical earnings excluding items rose 49% to $1.24 billion on higher volumes and profit margins.

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