America’s largest oil company ExxonMobil set a profit record for the second-straight quarter as oil and gas prices remained high. No. 2 US oil company Chevron also posted much-better-than-expected results.
ExxonMobil earned $18.7 billion, excluding special items, up 6% from the second quarter results which had been the record and up 177% from a year ago. Earnings per share of $4.45 soared past the $3.79 forecast by analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.
Chevron (CVX), the nation’s second largest oil company, also reported a huge jump in income that easily topped forecasts. Adjusted earnings of $10.8 billion were nearly double the $5.7 billion it made a year ago. But it was slightly lower than the $11.4 billion it earned on that basis in the second quarter. Earnings per share of $5.56 easily topped the forecast of $4.81.
The oil companies have been posting staggering profits since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent oil and gasoline prices soaring worldwide early this year. Over the course of six months from April through September, ExxonMobil has had an adjusted profit of about $2,300 a second, while Chevron earned $1,400 a second.
Since it takes about two minutes to pump 20 gallons of gas, that means between them the two oil giants earned more than $400,000 between them in the time it took to fill a gas tank on many full-size SUVs or pickups.
For the second-straight quarter ExxonMobil did not mention that it had achieved a record profit, as companies typically do when they reach all-time highs. Reuters reported three months ago that the second quarter was a record profit for both companies. Chevron also did not mention it had been a record profit in the earlier period. With consumer outrage over high gas prices, both companies probably wanted to avoid calling attention to the record profits.
ExxonMobil did report record output for its refineries, however. Oil companies have faced calls from the Biden administration and Congress to increase the supply of gasoline and other oil products in the face of high prices and low supplies caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Oil companies have generally been slow to increase crude oil production, preferring to take their windfall profits and return it to shareholders through stock buybacks and dividends to support their stock prices.
ExxonMobil said it has distributed $11.2 billion in dividends repurchased $10.5 billion worth of its stock this year, part of its plan to repurchase $30 billion by the end of next year. Meanwhile it has spent only $15.2 billion on exploration and capital expenditures.
But the oil companies have been eager to run as much oil as possible through their refineries, given the high retail prices and refinery margins. Much of the extra oil has come from releases of about 1 million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the nation’s emergency oil stockpile.
US retail gas prices actually fell through much of the quarter after hitting a record of $5.02 on June 14, just before the quarter began. That was driven mostly by rising concern among oil traders that the US and global economy could soon fall into recession, which would cut travel and demand for gas and other products. Still even with the slide in gas prices through much of the quarter, they remained well above year-earlier levels, as well as the price before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Shares of ExxonMobil are up 76% so far this year, and were up another 2% in midday trading. Chevron shares, up 56% year-to-date, were little changed in Friday trading.