Exxon Mobil shares fall 3.5% on earnings miss fueled by weak refining and chemicals profits

Key Points
  • Exxon Mobil reported earnings per share of$1.09, compared with expectations of $1.12 for the first quarter of 2018.
  • Shares of Exxon Mobil have slumped since earlier this year, when the company's fourth-quarter earnings fell short of Wall Street's expectations.
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Exxon Mobil on Friday reported its quarterly profit increased from a year ago, but fell short of expectations, marking the second straight quarter that earnings disappointed Wall Street.

Weakness in the company's fuel refining and chemicals businesses dragged on an upbeat quarter for Exxon's unit that focuses on producing oil and natural gas.

The company's stock slipped 3.5 percent shortly after the start of trading on Friday.

Exxon's profits have improved over the last year as the oil market continues to recover from a prolonged price slump. Oil prices have recently hit their highest levels since the end of 2014.

Those rising prices helped to boost Exxon's profits and revenues in the first quarter.

"Increased commodity prices, coupled with a focus on operating efficiently and strengthening our portfolio, resulted in higher earnings and the highest quarterly cash flow from operations and asset sales since 2014," Darren Woods, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

Exxon's profit rose 16 percent to $4.65 billion from a year ago, but fell a few cents short of expectations on a per share basis. The oil giant reported earnings of $1.09 per share, compared with $1.12 forecast by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue came in at $68.21 billion, also up 16 percent from a year ago.

However, profits in Exxon's downstream business, which refines and sells fuels like gasoline, slumped nearly 16 percent from the same period last year. The company attributed the performance to its international business, where it saw higher expenses, lower profit margins and weaker gains from sales of assets.

The company's chemicals business also slumped, with profits falling about 14 percent from last year. Both at home and abroad, Exxon's profit margins fell while it spent more to grow its future production of chemicals.

Meanwhile, profits were up 50 percent at $3.5 billion in Exxon's business exploring for and producing oil and natural gas

Notably, its American production business generated $429 million in profit, compared with a loss of $18 million a year ago. Exxon has been investing in U.S. shale oil production, particularly in the prolific Permian Basin that underlies Texas and New Mexico.

Exxon's production of oil, natural gas and other liquids fell by 6 percent from the previous quarter. An earth quake in Papua New Guinea in February disrupted operations at Exxon's liquefied natural gas facility, reducing its quarterly earnings by $80 million.

Despite returning to profit growth last year, investors sold off the company's stock after Exxon reported fourth-quarter results that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. The shares have yet to fully recover.

Exxon's stock performance has also lagged the broader energy sector, as well as its Big Oil peers like Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell. Chevron is set to report earnings later Thursday morning.

Shares of Exxon are down about 4 percent over the last year, compared with a 9-percent gain for the S&P 500 energy sector.

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