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UPDATE 2-Exxon quarterly profit to feel pinch of weaker natural gas, chemical earnings

Shanti S Nair

earnings@ (Adds analysts' comment, updates shares)

July 1 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp said on Monday lower natural gas and chemical margins in its second quarter would offset improved crude and refining operations, pointing to flat profits sequentially and down from a year-earlier.

The U.S. oil major said in a filing it expected change in crude prices to boost second-quarter profit by $400 million to $600 million. However, gas prices which have dropped to multi-year lows in the face of tepid demand, were expected to offset it by an equal measure.

RBC Capital Markets analysts in an note said the magnitude of weakness across refining, chemicals and gas and the lack of sequential improvement, "leaves us heading into another disappointing quarter for Exxon's earnings momentum."

Jennifer Rowland, analyst at Edward Jones, now expects second-quarter upstream earnings to be fairly flat compared to the first quarter, lowering the brokerage's profit estimates to 88 cents per share below Wall Street's average estimates of 97 cents and the year-ago quarter's 92 cents.

Exxon said weaker margins from its chemical business is expected to impact the company's second-quarter profit by $100 million to $300 million. It also estimated a potential second-quarter gain of $200 million over the first quarter from a lack of impairment charges.

Rowland expects the downstream segment to return to profitability due to higher margins while chemicals should continue to post weaker results given lower margins and scheduled maintenance.

In April, the company reported first-quarter profit that slumped 49% to $2.4 billion and missed analysts' estimates due to a weakness across its major businesses.

Exxon shares, which have risen about 12% up to Friday's close this year, gained marginally compared with an about 0.5% rise in the S&P 500 Energy index on Monday as a result of oil prices that steadied as OPEC extended supply cuts until March 2020 during a meeting in Vienna. (Reporting by Shanti S Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Shailesh Kuber)