The nation’s biggest oil companies — ExxonMobil and Chevron — saw their profits roughly triple in the second-quarter as Russia’s war in Ukraine upended global energy markets and left consumers stretching to cover record high pump prices.
The blockbuster results come a day after Europe-based Shell also posted record profits: The three, plus France’s TotalEnergies, collectively earned nearly $51 billion in the most recent quarter, nearly twice what they brought in during the same three months in 2021, according to Reuters.
The staggering results are mostly tied to the West’s effort to punish Russia for the unprovoked attack on its neighbor by cutting off its energy sales. Crude prices that had shriveled in the early months of the coronavirus pandemic suddenly swelled, and are now 37 percent higher than they were a year ago. That’s still lower than what markets commanded in June, when West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. oil benchmark, surged over $120 per barrel. As of Friday, WTI remained close to $100 per barrel.
Energy companies have flourish as the rest of Wall Street has gotten hammered this year. Vanguard’s Energy Index Fund, an exchange-traded fund that includes major oil companies, is up 37 percent year to date even as the broad-based S&P 500 index has pulled back 14 percent. Exxon and Chevron shares have soared 51 percent and 36 percent, respectively.
Consumers and businesses have felt the sting of surging fuel prices amid decades-high inflation.
The U.S. average for a gallon of gasoline price topped $5 for the first time in June. On Friday it stood at $4.26, according to AAA. Consumers’ gasoline bills surged nearly 49 percent that month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Friday, after rising 20 percent in May. Diesel fuel, which underlies much of the U.S. shipping system, has also spiked, putting pressure on major retailers in a fragile economy.
President Biden, facing criticism from the right over his handling of inflation and the economy, called out Exxon for making “more money than God” in a June address, while imploring it and Chevron to redouble their efforts to get more oil supply on the market.
In late June, Chevron chief executive Mike Wirth responded with a sharply worded letter admonishing the administration for its attempts, “to criticize, and at times vilify, our industry.”
He added that Chevron “is also concerned about the higher prices Americans are experiencing,” while highlighting his companies recent capital expenditures.
Oil companies are pumping more to meet demand, with Exxon increasing its oil and gas production in the Permian Basin by 130,000 oil-equivalent barrels per day compared with the first half of 2021. But the market for crude oil still suffers a drastic imbalance in supply and demand, and industry insiders say it will take years to bring new supply online.
“If you look at what it takes to bring on new investments to grow supply in the oil industry, it is a fairly long-cycle investment … three to five years is a reasonable time frame to think about bringing significant additional production into the mix,” Exxon chief executive Darren Woods said on CNBC Friday.
Alongside the production increases, oil giants are also sending billions of dollars to Wall Street through share buybacks and dividends. Exxon reported that it distributed $7.6 billion to shareholders, including dividends, while Shell announced $6 billion in share buybacks designed to boost its stock price.
Exxon stock jumped 4.7 percent Friday, closing at $96.97, while Chevron spiked 8.9 percent to settle at $163.78. Shell climbed 3.7 percent, to $53.38.
The gains came as the rest of Wall Street wrapped up July with a third consecutive winning session. The Dow Jones industrial average added 315.50 points, or 1 percent, to land at 32,845.13. The S&P 500 jumped 1.4 percent to close at 4,130.29, and the Nasdaq climbed 1.9 percent to finish at 12,390.69.
For the week, the Dow rose 3 percent, the S&P 500 4.3 percent and the Nasdaq 4.7 percent.
For July, the Dow gained 6.7 percent, the S&P 500 grew 9.1 percent and the Nasdaq spiked 12.4 percent. Those were the biggest monthly gains for all three indexes since November 2020, according to MarketWatch.