DALLAS - The big plunge in oil prices is taking Big Oil's profits down.
Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) said Tuesday that fourth-quarter profit fell 58 percent to $2.78 billion. It was the oil giant's smallest profit since the third quarter of 2002.
Exxon's core exploration and production business lost money in the U.S. and international earnings plummeted by nearly two-thirds. One of the few bright spots, Exxon's refining operations, was more profitable than a year ago. That helped Exxon avoid the fate of rival Chevron Corp., which lost money in the fourth quarter.
Britain's BP said Tuesday that its profit tumbled more than 90 percent.
Exxon shares fell 2 percent to $74.70 in trading before the opening bell.
The amount of oil on the market remains is at extraordinarily high levels and producers, with prices so low, continue to drill just to earn what they can. Exxon's production rose nearly 5 percent. In 2015, the company pumped oil and natural gas equal to 4.1 million barrels a day.
CEO Rex Tillerson called it a "challenging environment," but said the company is generating enough cash to continue investing in the business.
Exxon's profit fell from $6.57 billion a year earlier, when oil prices were already beginning to tumble.
The Irving, Texas, company was still able to put up per-share earnings of 67 cents, which was 3 cents better than beat Wall Street had expected, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.
Revenue fell to $59.81 billion, beating the $50.85 billion according to a poll by the data firm FactSet.
For all of 2015, Exxon earned $16.15 billion, or about half what it earned in 2014.
Exxon shares have fallen 2 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has lost 5 percent. Exxon's shares have fallen 13 percent in the last 12 months.