Washington Post 
Thursday, Oct 30, 2008
Exxon Mobil Corp. smashed its own record for quarterly profits today, ringing up $14.8 billion in net income in the third quarter powered by soaring summertime crude oil prices.
Exxon Mobil’s earnings, at $2.86 a share, are up 58 percent from the same period in 2007 and higher than what analysts expected, capping a week of strong profit numbers from the world’s biggest oil companies, all of whom benefited from the spike in oil prices in July. Royal Dutch Shell also posted higher earnings today, beating analysts’ estimates with $8.54 billion of profits for the third quarter.
The recent drop in oil prices to less than half the July peak will likely lower oil company profits in the current quarter and the year ahead; today UBS AG, citing the lower demand for oil as a result of the worldwide economic slowdown, cut its forecast for oil prices for next year by 36 percent to $75 a barrel.
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Firms such as Exxon Mobil are still barreling toward full-year earnings that will easily set new marks in the history of U.S. corporate profits.
Investors appeared to focus on the future, however, as Exxon Mobil shares fell in early trading this morning. The company’s shares have dropped nearly 20 percent this year; the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index has dropped about 36 percent.
The engine of Exxon’s earnings growth came from its production of crude oil, where high prices more than offset production volumes that were 8 percent lower than they were in the third quarter of 2007. Although Exxon expanded production off the coast of West Africa and in the North Sea, overall oil production fell as a result of contract terms that trim Exxon’s share of production at high prices, natural decline of older fields, and downtime resulting from maintenance and hurricane damage.