Exxon Mobil Corp. said on Thursday its third-quarter earnings declined 10 percent, missing expectations on sharply dropping profits from the production of gasoline and lower natural gas prices.

Net income at the world's largest publicly traded company fell to $9.41 billion, or $1.70 a share, from $10.49 billion, or $1.77 a share, a year earlier.

Analysts, on average, had expected the company to earn $1.74 a share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Margins to produce gasoline and other refined products fell sharply during the quarter, dragging down earnings at most integrated oil companies that both drill for and refine the fuel.

Refining margins plummeted by as much as 90 percent from record highs reached in May as the summer driving season ended, oil prices surged and gasoline prices did not keep up with the price increases.

Earnings from the company's exploration and production operations slipped 3 percent to $6.3 billion on lower natural gas prices and higher expenses.

Profits from the company's refining and marketing unit fell 27 percent to $2 billion on the lower margins.

Exxon shares fell about 2 percent before the bell on Thursday.

Through Wednesday's close, the shares were up about 20 percent this year, underperforming the Chicago Board Options Exchange's Oil Index, which rose about 29 percent over the same period.

(Reporting by Michael Erman)