Exxon Mobil 4Q profit drops 23 percent

Exxon Mobil Corp. on Monday said last year’s profit of $19.3 billion was its smallest since 2002 as higher oil prices squeezed profit margins in its refining business.

The world’s largest publicly traded oil company finished the year with fourth-quarter earnings tumbling 23 percent. Exxon earned $6.05 billion, or $1.27 a share, for the final three months of 2009. That compares with $7.82 billion, or $1.54 a share, a year earlier.

Net income has now fallen for five straight quarters after Exxon set a record for quarterly profit from operations by a U.S. corporation of $14.83 billion in the third quarter of 2008.

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Analysts expected $1.19 a share in the fourth quarter. Shares rose about 2 percent in premarket trading.

For the full year, Exxon Mobil Corp. earned $3.98 a share. That compares with a record-breaking year in 2008, when Exxon had the highest profit ever for a U.S. company with earnings of $45.2 billion, or $8.66 a share.

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