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Exxon Mobil reports 4Q results Friday

NEW YORK (AP) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. reports fourth-quarter results on Friday, and analysts expect net income will fall from a year ago, when asset sales boosted earnings. They're still looking for the oil giant to post quarterly earnings above $9 billion.

With Royal Dutch Shell reporting results on Thursday and Chevron Corp. joining Exxon on Friday, oil investors will get plenty of numbers to digest over the rest of the week.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Investors will be looking for insight into worldwide demand for oil and natural gas, and they'll want to learn more about Exxon's plans for production. The weak global economy has hurt energy demand, and Exxon's oil and gas production fell 7.5 percent in the third quarter compared with a year earlier.

WHY IT MATTERS: Exxon Mobil is the nation's biggest oil company and jockeys for the top spot in stock market value. The company prides itself on disciplined investment in new projects and fields — too cautious to maintain solid production growth, in the minds of some analysts.

When Exxon went bold into natural gas, buying XTO Energy, it didn't pay immediate dividends. Strong production has helped keep natural gas prices low, hurting producers.

Barclays analyst Paul Y. Cheng, in explaining why he rates Exxon shares a neutral "Equal Weight," said in a note Wednesday that other big integrated oil companies are more compelling values and he's still "concerned that the XTO operation will remain a drag on the company's performance."

Exxon's shares fell 5 percent during the fourth quarter. Through Wednesday, they were up 5 percent so far in 2013, closing at $90.67, near the top of their 52-week range of $77.13 in June to $93.67 in October.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect Exxon will report about $9.1 billion in net income on revenue of $115.22 billion. They expect adjusted profit will work out to $1.99 per share.

YEAR-AGO QUARTER: Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil reported net income of $9.4 billion on revenue of $121.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011. Earnings per share were $1.97.