Statoil (STO) launched European oil companies' quarterly reporting season in underwhelming fashion as low oil prices and weaker-than-expected production pushed the Norwegian producer to an adjusted loss of $261 million, well below consensus analyst expectation for a $182 million profit.

The loss leaves Statoil in the red for a second consecutive quarter and represents a massive turnaround on the $445 million profit it posted this time last year. Earnings per share came in at negative $0.08 against  a consensus estimate of $0.06.

Despite the disappointment, Statoil shares traded Thursday morning at 136.9 Norwegian kroner ($16.63), up Nkr1.9, or 1.4%, buoyed by a small rise in the price of Brent crude and by Statoil's progress on cutting costs.

Statoil said Thursday that capital expenditure for the year would be $11 billion, down $1 billion on earlier forecasts, while exploration spending will fall to $1.5 billion from $1.8 billion.

"The additional capital discipline is a positive," noted Goldman Sachs. "But we view the weak results as being the likely driver of the stock today," the analysts added, before the markets opened. Goldman has a sell rating on Statoil with a price target of Nkr120.

Oil companies are likely to struggle to maintain profits over the third quarter compared with a year earlier due to lower oil prices. Brent crude traded at an average of $45.90 over the third quarter, marginally higher than the previous quarter's prices but down on the average of $50.50 in the third quarter of 2015.

Analysts are holding out hope that stronger production could offset price declines, but Statoil disappointed on that measure with production of 1.65 million barrels of oil equivalent, down 9% on the second quarter and below consensus expectations of 1.76 million barrels.

Statoil's revenue of $12 billion was down 11% year-on-year and net operating profit fell 16% to $737 million.

"The financial results were affected by low oil and gas prices, extensive planned maintenance and expensed exploration wells from previous periods," said Statoil's president and CEO Eldar Sætre in a statement.

Italy's Eni (E) - Get Report and France's Total (TOT) - Get Report will post their third-quarter figures on Friday.