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Chevron sets new earnings record

Chevron Corp.'s fourth-quarter profit dropped by nine percent, but the oil company still made enough to post its third consecutive year of record earnings.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Chevron Corp.'s fourth-quarter profit dropped by nine percent, but the oil company still made enough to post its third consecutive year of record earnings.

The San Ramon-based company said Friday that it earned $3.77 billion, or $1.74 per share, during the final three months of 2006. That compared with net income of $4.14 billion, or $1.86 per share, at the same time in 2006.

It marked Chevron's first quarterly profit decline in more than a year.

Revenue for the period totaled $47.7 billion, down 11 percent from $53.8 billion in the previous year.

The earnings were a penny above the average estimate among analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

Like its industry peers, Chevron has been recently stung by a steady decline in crude oil prices, which have plunged more than $20 per barrel from their peak reached last summer.

But gasoline prices haven't not fallen as sharply, a factor that boosted Chevron's fourth-quarter profit. The company's division that refines oil and sells gasoline earned $954 million in the quarter, an 18 percent increase from the previous year.

For the full year, Chevron earned $17.1 billion to easily exceed its previous record income of $14.1 billion set in 2005. Chevron has earned more than $44 billion during the past three years _ a stretch of unprecedented prosperity for the industry, much to the consternation of many motorists and lawmakers.