HOUSTON — Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, reported on Thursday its best quarterly profit in history, but investors sold off shares in morning trading after expecting even higher earnings because of soaring oil and natural gas prices.
Record earnings for the world’s largest publicly traded oil company have become almost as predictable as the surge of gasoline prices at the pump in recent years, and for the second quarter income rose 14 percent, to $11.68 billion.
It was the highest quarterly profit ever for any American company, as Exxon made nearly $90,000 a minute.
Such profits have made Exxon Mobil a target of politicians in recent years, propelling calls for windfall profits taxes to finance research and development for renewable fuels to replace oil.
The principal reason for the company’s banquet of riches is rising fuel prices. Crude oil prices in the second quarter averaged more than $124 a barrel, 91 percent higher than the same quarter in 2007, according to Oppenheimer & Company. Natural gas prices averaged $10.80 per thousand cubic feet, up 43 percent from the quarter a year ago.
But while high energy prices brought Exxon $10 billion in earnings from selling oil in the quarter, up about $4.1 billion or nearly 70 percent, not everything in its earnings report heartened investors. The company reported that its oil production decreased 8 percent from the second quarter of 2007, largely because of an expropriation of Exxon assets by the Venezuelan government and labor strife in Nigeria.
The company spent $7 billion, or nearly 40 percent more than the same quarter last year, to find and produce oil from new fields.
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