IRVING, Texas, April 29 (UPI) -- Exxon Mobil said Friday it managed to report a profit during the first quarter downturn, though pressure continued to build for U.S. counterpart Chevron.
Exxon said its first quarter earnings of $1.8 billion was its weakest in more than a decade as "lower commodity prices and weaker refining margins" took their toll. First quarter figures compare with earnings of $4.9 billion one year ago.
"The organization continues to respond effectively to challenging industry conditions, capturing enhancements to operational performance and creating margin uplift despite low prices," he said in a statement.
Crude oil prices are about 20 percent lower than last year, but more than 70 percent higher than their low point for 2016. Industry analysts and players, including the chief executive officer at BP, see the supply-side pressures that dragged on crude oil prices last year starting to fade.
Exxon said production on an oil equivalent basis was up 1.8 percent from last year, though natural gas output was lower. The company blamed much of the decline on issues overseas and field maturation.
Bucking industry trends, the company said earlier this week it was increasing its stock payouts by around 3 percent. Capital spending on exploration and production, meanwhile, came in at $5.1 billion for the first quarter, about 30 percent less than first quarter 2015.
Exxon's performance beat that from its U.S. counterpart, Chervron, which reported a loss of $725 million compared with earnings of $2.6 billion during the first quarter of 2015. For Chevron, its net oil equivalent production of 1.9 million barrels per day represented a 1 percent decline year-on-year. Spending, meanwhile, was almost 25 percent lower than first quarter 2015 at $6.5 million.
"We continue to lower our cost structure with better pricing, work flow efficiencies and matching our organizational size to expected future activity levels," he said.
Chevron is trimming staff after a fourth quarter loss represented its first contraction in more than 10 years.