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Chevron says 1Q profit will beat 4Q results

SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — Chevron says higher oil prices will help push first-quarter profit higher than fourth-quarter earnings despite a drop in U.S. production.

The oil company said Tuesday that it also benefited from higher refining profit margins, lower operating costs, and gains from selling assets. Foreign-exchange losses are expected to be larger.

Chevron Corp. didn’t say what net income it expects to report when it releases its first-quarter results on April 27.

Analysts expect the company to report net income of nearly $6.3 billion, or $3.15 per share, excluding one-time gains and expenses, according to FactSet. It earned $6.2 billion, or $3.09 per share, in last year’s first quarter. For the fourth quarter, it earned $5.12 billion, or $2.58 per share.

The San Ramon, Calif., company said the price it paid for West Texas crude oil rose 9.6 percent and for Brent crude rose 8.5 percent from the fourth quarter. The prices that Chevron fetched in January and February didn’t rise as quickly. Natural gas prices fell.

Chevron said daily production of oil and gas in the U.S. fell 2.6 percent in January and February compared with the fourth quarter. International production — which accounts for about three-fourths of the total — was flat despite a shutdown of the Frade field in Brazil in mid-March.

The Frade setback is costing the company 33,000 barrels per day. No date has been set for resuming production.

Refinery volumes were up through February. Chevron cited improvements made late last year at its refinery in Richmond, Calif.

The company said it earned about $200 million from asset sales, mostly in Spain, in the first quarter. It expects to report after-tax charges of between $300 million and $400 million.

In after-hours trading after the company issued the outlook, the shares rose 60 cents to $102.05. The shares fell $2.04, or 2 percent, to close regular trading at $101.45. They’ve fallen 8.1 percent from their close on the first day of trading in 2012. They have ranged from $86.68 ti $112.28 the past year.

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