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Higher Oil Prices Boost Exxon Mobil’s Q4 Profit

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NEW YORK (AP) - Exxon Mobil’s fourth-quarter profit rose 2 percent as higher oil prices offset a drop in production.

The world’s largest publicly traded oil company said Tuesday that it sold crude between October and December for 27 percent more than one year ago. Natural gas prices also jumped 27 percent outside the United States.

Higher prices pushed net income to $9.4 billion, or $1.97 per share, in the fourth quarter, matching Wall Street expectations. It made $9.25 billion, or $1.85 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 15.6 percent to $121.6 billion in the latest quarter.

Exxon, based in Irving, Texas, said that production declined nearly 9 percent in the quarter, even

after spending a record $36.8 billion last year in search of new sources of crude and natural gas.

Exploration projects can take years to yield new production. And some of Exxon’s biggest investments recently have been in U.S. natural gas fields, which so far haven’t paid off because prices have dropped to their lowest level in a decade.

Crude production declined as some of its fields matured and produced less. And many contracts in foreign countries limit the amount of oil that Exxon can sell as prices rise. And natural gas demand fell in Europe as well.

Overall, earnings in Exxon’s exploration and production business rose 18 percent offsetting a 63 percent drop in income from the company’s refining business.

The company’s refineries, which produce gasoline, diesel and other fuels, have struggled to pass on the higher cost of their primary input, which is crude. Exxon announced Sunday that it is selling its Japanese refining and marketing business to partner TonenGeneral Sekiyu K.K. for $3.9 billion following an extended slide in Japanese fuel demand.

Exxon’s chemicals business also saw profits decline 49 percent.

For the full year, Exxon’s net income rose 34.8 percent while revenue rose 26.9 percent.

Last week, Chevron Corp. said profits slipped 3.2 percent. ConocoPhillips reported a 66-percent increase in quarterly earnings, though much of that came from the sale of a pipeline and other assets. Royal Dutch Shell expects to report its financial results later this week.

Shares of Exxon Mobil Corp. fell 91 cents to $84.58 in early trading.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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