Chevron's 72% Earnings Jump Fueled by Higher Oil Prices

ChevronChevron Corp. (CVX) said Friday its fourth-quarter net income jumped 72 percent as rising fuel demand lifted oil prices and produced a sharp turnaround in its refinery business.

The San Ramon, Calif. company reported net income of $5.3 billion, or $2.64 per share, for the final three months of 2010. That compares with $3.1 billion, or $1.53 per share, in the same part of 2009. Revenue climbed 11 percent to $54.03 billion.

Analysts had expected earnings of $2.35 per share on revenue of $60 billion, according to FactSet.

Chevron's refineries, which make fuels and other petroleum products around the world, earned $742 in the quarter, compared with a loss of $673 million a year ago. ConocoPhillips and Valero Energy Corp. reported similar gains earlier this week.

Refining businesses struggled when first, oil prices hit record highs and then a global economic slowdown squeezed demand. They made a comeback in 2010 as a renewed thirst for gasoline and diesel helped lift fuel prices. And OPEC countries are producing more of the cheaper varieties of crude oil that many large refineries depend on to boost profits.

Chevron said refining margins increased in the fourth quarter, following a 2 percent rise in world petroleum demand. In the U.S., consumption in the final three months of 2010 reached levels unseen since 2008.

Valero's profit margin jumped 49 percent in the fourth quarter. ConocoPhillips' margins increased 88 percent for its international refining business and almost tripled in the U.S.

Chevron's profit from oil exploration and production increased 16 percent to $4.8 billion as prices for oil and natural gas liquids rose. Average crude and natural gas liquids prices grew 13 percent in the U.S. to $76 per barrel and 16 percent in international markets to $79 per barrel. Natural gas prices dropped 13.7 percent to $3.65 per 1,000 cubic feet in the U.S. but increased 16 percent to $4.81 per 1,000 cubic feet internationally.

For the full year, Chevron earned $19.14 billion, or $9.48 per share, compared with $10.56 billion, or $5.24 per share, in 2009.

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