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Chevron reports lower production, prices

Jonathan Fahey, AP Energy Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Chevron Corp. said its oil and gas production fell in the first two months of the year compared with last year's fourth quarter. The price it received for oil also fell, but natural gas prices rose.

In its interim financial report, released Wednesday, the company said U.S. production fell by 11,000 barrels per day, or 2 percent, due to maintenance on production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. International production slipped 21,000 barrels per day, or 1 percent, partly because of weather-related downtime.

The company's refinery operations also produced less diesel, gasoline and jet fuel. In the U.S. output fell by 145,000 barrels per day because of planned maintenance at its Pascagoula, Miss. refinery. Maintenance at overseas refineries cut output by 61,000 barrels per day.

Chevron shares slipped 28 cents to $119.36 in after-hours trading after the interim report was released. Shares rose $1 in regular trading to $119.64.

Analysts expect Chevron earnings to slip in the first quarter because oil prices in the U.S. and abroad have fallen. On average, analysts expect Chevron to earn $3.09 per share for the quarter, according to FactSet, down from $3.27 per share in the first quarter last year.

In the U.S., Chevron was paid $94.07 per barrel for oil, on average, and $3.06 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas in the first two months of the year. During last year's first quarter, Chevron was paid an average of $101.93 per barrel for oil and $2.48 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas.

Abroad, Chevron was paid $104.27 per barrel for oil and $6.03 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas in the first two months of this year, compared with $110.03 and $5.88 during last year's first quarter.

Chevron's returns have outpaced those of Exxon Mobil Corp.'s and other peers in recent years in part because of where Chevron does most of its business and what it sells. About 70 percent of Chevron's oil and gas production is oil and other liquids, which have commanded higher prices in recent years compared with natural gas. Also, Chevron's oil is largely linked to overseas benchmarks, such as Brent crude, which has been priced much higher than domestic crude.

In a report released Wednesday, Morgan Stanley analyst Evan Calio wrote that he expects Chevron shares to out-perform rival ExxonMobil's by 55 percent over the next five years. He sees Chevron's realizing higher production growth from projects that are expected to be more profitable than Exxon's. Chevron is developing two enormous natural gas projects in Australia and three major oil projects in the Gulf of Mexico as part of an investment plan that will cost the company $33 billion this year.

Chevron is set to announce earnings for the full first quarter on April 26.