Occidental Petroleum ( OXY) posted a 50% jump in second-quarter profit as the company benefited from surging crude oil and gasoline prices during the period.

The L.A.-based company said net income jumped to a record $581 million, or $1.48 a share, compared with $374 million, or 98 cents a share, in the second quarter 2003. Revenue rose to $2.75 billion from $2.26 billion in the year-ago period.

Analysts were forecasting EPS of $1.43, according to a survey by Thomson First Call.

Oil and gas unit earnings were $814 million, up from $637 million for the second quarter 2003, while profit at the company's chemicals unit almost doubled to $85 million.

Crude oil prices hit a record high of more than $42 a barrel in June, while gasoline prices broke $2 a gallon in many parts of the country.

The company continued to pay down debt in the quarter, shaving another $360 million off its books. Since the beginning of the year, the company has reduced "debt-like obligations" by more than $1 billion.

Occidental also said Dale R. Laurance, its president and head of oil and gas operations, plans to retire for health-related considerations. Laurance will relinquish his oil and gas duties immediately but keep his corporate post until Dec. 31. Ray R. Irani, Occidental's chairman and CEO, will assume the additional title of President on Jan. 1, 2005.

Shares closed at a 52-week high of $50.47 Friday.

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