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Exxon Mobil Misses Mark

Earnings are light as chemical margins disappoint.
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Exxon Mobil's

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first-quarter earnings rose a weaker-than-expected 7% from a year ago, as chemical margins weren't as robust as hoped.

The oil supermajor earned $8.40 billion, or $1.37 a share, in the quarter, compared with $7.86 billion, or $1.22 a share, last year. The latest quarter included a charge of 4 cents a share reflecting litigation and a higher tax expense in the company's exploration and production unit.

On average, 20 analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting earnings of $1.47 a share in the latest quarter, with the range of estimates going from $1.21 a share to $1.55 a share.

Exxon's sales rose 8% to $88.98 billion. Wall Street analysts don't generally try to predict the sales performance of oil supermajors. Thomson First Call compiled only one estimate for Exxon's quarter: $100.8 billion.

In "upstream" businesses of exploration and production, Exxon earned $6.38 billion in the quarter, up 26% from a year ago. In the "downstream" businesses of refining and market, Exxon earned $1.27 billion, up 11% from a year ago, excluding a gain. Exxon's chemical businesses earned $949 million, down 33% from a year ago.

"Higher crude oil and natural gas realizations and improved marketing margins were partly offset by lower chemical margins," Exxon noted in a press release.

Exxon said first-quarter production rose 5% from a year ago, on an oil-equivalent basis.

The stock closed at $63.10 Wednesday. In premarket trading Thursday, it was down $1.70, or 2.7%, to $61.40.