Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM - Get Report) posted much softer-than-expected first quarter earnings Friday as weaker industry margins, thanks in part to high U.S. gasoline inventories, hit its bottom line.

Exxon said earnings for the three months ending in March came in at 55 cents per share, down 49.5% from the same period last year and well shy of the Street consensus forecast of 70 cents per share. Group revenues, Exxon said, fell 6.7% to $63.625 billion and against missed analysts' estimates of $67.35 billion.

"Solid operating performance in the first quarter helped mitigate the impact of challenging Downstream and Chemical margin environments. In addition, we continued to benefit from our integrated business model," said CEO Darren Woods. "We are making strong progress on our growth plans and expect to deliver sustained value for our shareholders. The change in Canadian crude differentials, as well as heavy scheduled maintenance, similar to the fourth quarter of 2018, affected our quarterly results."

Exxon shares were marked 2.4% lower at the start of trading Friday to change hands at $80.24 each, a move that would trim the stock's year-to-date advance to around 15.3%, compared to a 40.5% gain for WTI crude prices over the same period.

In its downstream business, "weak industry fuels margins from high gasoline inventory levels and narrowed North American crude differentials impacted results in the quarter," Exxon said, while chemicals margins "remained challenged with continued supply length from recent industry capacity additions."

U.S. gasoline inventories hit a record high of 259.6 million barrels in late January, according to Energy Information Agency figures, and remained elevated throughout much of the quarter despite domestic production rates hitting 12 million barrels of crude per day.

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