HOUSTON (Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp's quarterly profit rose a better-than-expected 69 percent as the world's largest publicly traded oil company benefited from higher crude prices and improved earnings in its chemical and refining businesses.
In the first quarter, the average U.S. oil price was $95 per barrel, about 20 percent higher than a year earlier, a factor that has lifted earnings at most oil companies.
Since then, prices have climbed above $100 per barrel in a rally fueled by improved world demand for fuel and unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.
"It looks like chemical was really strong," Phil Weiss, oil analyst at Argus Research, said. "And production came in on the higher side relative to my expectations, especially gas."
Exxon shares were likely not responding to the earnings beat because it was driven by chemicals, which is not the company's primary business, Weiss said.
Shares of Exxon edged slightly lower in premarket trading.
Low natural gas prices and an improvement in global economies have boosted results for chemical companies, while refiners are profited from higher fuel demand.
The Irving, Texas, company reported a first-quarter profit of $10.65 billion, or $2.14 per share, up from $6.3 billion, or $1.33 per share, a year earlier.
Analysts on average had expected Exxon to report a first-quarter profit of $2.07 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 26 percent to $114 billion.
Oil and gas output rose 10 percent to 4.82 million barrels oil equivalent per day.
Profit in Exxon's chemicals unit rose 21 percent to $1.5 billion. Refining profit grew to $1.1 billion, up from $37 million a year earlier.
Shares of Exxon fell slightly to $87.56 in premarket trade from a New York Stock Exchange close of $87.78.
(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; editing by John Wallace, Dave Zimmerman)