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Big Oil Has Big Problems

Some of the world’s largest oil companies are reporting pretty ugly earnings. Profits at Exxon Mobil, the biggest U.S. oil company, are down 27 percent off its worst fourth-quarter earnings in four years. Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s biggest oil major, saw its profits tumble 48 percent.

Chevron reports on Friday, but given some of the issues it has faced maintaining production levels, there’s not a lot of optimism out there. ConocoPhillips reported a 74 percent jump in fourth-quarter net income, mostly from all the “non-core”assets it has unloaded recently. Production from continued operations is well below where it was a year ago.