Exxon to Cut Capex, Even as Production Costs Rise

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Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) said Wednesday morning that capital spending in 2014 will decrease from $42.5 billion in 2013 to $39.8 billion, a drop of 6.3%. Excluding any acquisitions, capex is expected to average less than $37 billion a year from 2015 to 2017.

Liquids production is slated to rise, however, by 2% this year and by 4% annually from 2015 to 2017. Liquids and liquids linked natural gas are expected to account for 69% of Exxon's total production by 2017. New projects coming online are expected to add a million barrels of oil equivalent production by 2017.

It is a safe bet that consumers are unlikely to see a drop in the price they pay at the pump. The CEO of Chevron Corp. (CVX) told a gathering of energy industry executives in Houston that labor and capital costs have doubled in the past 10 years and that "the new reality for our industry is that costs have caught up to revenues for many classes of products." Here's the money quote:

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Essentially, for a company like mine and many others, $100 a barrel is becoming the new $20 in our business.

The result: higher costs for the industry mean higher costs for consumers. If $100 is in fact the new $20, then consumers will have to pay more at the pump.

And that additional million barrels that Exxon is projecting? The company did not estimate either its per barrel costs nor a barrel's likely price. But if Chevron's exec is correct, consumer prices will need to rise sharply if the big oil companies are going to make a profit on production.

Shares of Exxon traded down 2.9% mid-afternoon Wednesday, at $93.72 in a 52-week range of $84.79 to $101.74. That is the largest one-day stock price drop since November of 2012.

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