Exxon Mobil (XOM - Get Report) reports fourth quarter earnings Tuesday, Jan. 31, before the opening bell, and analysts surveyed by FactSet are calling for profits of 70 cents a share on $61.5 billion in sales.
Irving, Texas-based Exxon saw its shares close down by nearly 0.8% Monday ahead of earnings.
In the third quarter, Exxon posted a surprise $2.7 billion profit, or 63 cents per share, on $58.7 billion in revenues mainly due to a better-than-expected performance from the company's downstream segment.
And while it is once again the downstream unit that will likely shine the brightest, according to Barclays analysts, the upstream portion should bring home the honors of most improved after posting just $620 million in the third quarter.
Barclays' Paul Cheng is calling for upstream income of $1.44 billion on total production of 4.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, a 12% quarter-over-quarter increase and a 1% improvement year-over-year.
Nevertheless, Raymond James' Pavel Molchanov tells TheStreet he has some questions concerning the future of the upstream program following the company's $6.6 billion all-stock acquisition of 250,000 acres in west Texas' Permian Basin from the Bass family.
"How quickly does Exxon plan to develop this new asset?" Molchanov wrote in an email to TheStreet. "What are rig count expectations for 2017? Does this acquisition change last year's guidance for broadly flattish company-wide output through 2020?"
Exxon would certainly not be alone if it decided to bolster activity in the Permian following the deal. In January alone, Baker Hughes (BHI) reported more than 25 rigs came online in the Permian, versus the overall U.S. count's build of 50 rigs.
Internationally, Raymond James hopes Exxon will discuss the next steps for development of the Liza and Payara oil discoveries in offshore Guyana, which the oil behemoth's subsidiary is a partner on with Hess (HES - Get Report) and China National Offshore Oil Corp.
Exxon's downstream unit, meanwhile, should report fourth-quarter earnings of more than $1.5 billion on refining throughput of 4.2 million barrels per day, according to Barclays. This compares to the segment's third quarter income of $1.2 billion income and fourth quarter 2015 income of $1.35 billion.
Barclays expects the integrated oil major's chemical segment to show continued decline, however, with $947 million in earnings for the fourth quarter, a 19% decrease quarter-over-quarter and 2% drop year-over-year.
Exxon's Tuesday report will follow a disappointing earnings announcement from one its major competitors, Chevron (CVX - Get Report) , which said Friday it made $415 million, or 22 cents a share, in the fourth quarter on sales of $30 billion, missing analysts' estimates and sending the company's shares tumbling more than 2.4% on the day.
Exxon will host an earnings call at 9:30 a.m. ET on Friday following its premarket release.