Refining profits boosted the bottom line in the fourth quarter for Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) and Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), enabling the two biggest U.S. oil companies Friday to beat analyst expectations, while outside the energy sector, other big companies also topped expectations. So far, two-thirds of reporting companies have done better than expected.
S&P Capital IQ said that of the 233 companies that have reported fourth-quarter results as of Thursday, 154 have beaten analyst expectations.
Exxon said its oil and natural gas production fell 5.2 percent in the last three months of 2012 to a three-year low, but the Irving, Texas, company’s refining, chemical and marketing profit soared, climbing to $1.77 billion from $425 million in the year-earlier period.
Overall, Exxon booked a fourth-quarter profit of $9.95 billion, or $2.20 per share, a 6 percent increase from the $9.4 billion, or $1.97 per share, profit it booked in the previous year’s fourth quarter. Revenue fell 5.3 percent to $115.17 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected the No. 1 U.S. energy company to earn $2 per share.
The No. 2 U.S. energy company, Chevron, said Friday its fourth-quarter profit climbed 41 percent to $7.2 billion, or $3.70 per share, compared with $5.1 billion, or $2.58 per share, in the year-earlier quarter. Excluding non-recurring items, the company booked $3.27 per share compared with analyst expectations of $3.03.
Revenue was down 3 percent to $56.3 billion.
Chevron’s downstream business benefited from a 46 percent profit margin increase as crude input costs fell and the San Ramon, Calif., company’s petroleum product selling prices rose.
Outside the energy sector, diversified manufacturer Ingersoll-Rand PLC's (NYSE:IR) adjusted fourth-quarter income beat analyst expectations, as did those of pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK).
Ingersoll-Rand’s results benefited from stronger revenue in its security technologies and industrial technologies businesses. The maker of air-conditioning and heating systems, which is based in Dublin, Ireland, also benefited from the gradually recovering U.S. residential housing market.
Merck’s sales and income fell but still beat analyst expectations as four drugs made by the Whitehouse Station, N.J., company – human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil, diabetes drugs Janumet and Januvia, and anti-inflammatory drug Remicade – helped offset weakness in the sales of other drugs.