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Earnings Preview: Exxon Mobil

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Exxon Mobil is expected to post another drop in quarterly profit and revenue as the sluggish world economy trims energy demand.

The nation's biggest oil and gas company is coming off its lowest profit in more than three years last quarter; tripped up by weak growth in the United States and China and Europe's ongoing economic problems.

While analysts believe that profit will exceed that of last quarter, they don't believe it will reach the net income put up during the same period last year.

Still, the three-year profit low for Exxon was $6.86 billion, or about four times the profit recorded by McDonald's, the world's biggest burger chain, during its most recent quarter.

Exxon, the nation's biggest oil and gas company, is scheduled to report third-quarter results before the stock market opens Thursday.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Any commentary on demand and Exxon's production plan. Exxon's production of oil and gas has slowed recently. It takes time to tap new fields, and old ones are maturing.

Exxon is involved with several big projects that could eventually boost production, but most aren't expected to begin paying off until 2015 or so.

WHY IT MATTERS: Energy makes the world economy go, so an oil and gas giant like Exxon is a gauge of economic strength. The company produces oil and natural gas, refines crude into products such as gasoline, and then sells the finished goods.

Exxon's results could also have a bearing on the Dow Jones industrial average. Exxon's market value of nearly $400 billion means that a change in its stock price can move the popular stock-market index.

In the third quarter, Exxon's shares fell 5 percent in value. They were up 3 percent for the year at the start of trading Wednesday.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts expect Exxon to report adjusted income of $1.77 per share, according to a FactSet survey. They peg revenue at $107.39 billion.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: Irving-based Exxon Mobil Corp. earned $9.57 billion, or $2.09 per share, on revenue of $115.71 billion in the third quarter of 2012.