JOHN PORRETTO

The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Exxon Mobil said Thursday its second-quarter profit fell a surprising 66 percent from a year ago as the world's biggest publicly traded oil company, like the rest of the industry, saw crude and gas prices fall sharply and refining margins tighten.

Exxon Mobil Corp., based in Irving, Texas, said earnings for the April-June period came to $3.95 billion, or 81 cents a share. That was down from $11.68 billion, or $2.22 a share, a year ago, a record at the time.

Excluding one-time items, net income in the most-recent quarter amounted to $4.09 billion, or 84 cents a share.

The latest result missed the average Wall Street profit forecast by a wide margin. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters were looking for net income of $1.02 cents a share. Those estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Revenue fell 46 percent to $74.5 billion from $138.1 billion a year ago. Analysts, on average, had forecast revenue of about $71.3 billion, Thomson Reuters said.

The substantial profit falloff was no surprise given the steep drop in oil and natural gas prices from a year ago. Major integrated oil companies ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch Shell already have reported profit declines ranging from 53 percent to 76 percent in the second quarter.

Yet the size of Exxon's decline is sure to catch investors off guard.

Company shares fell more than 2 percent, or $1.61, to $69.82 in premarket trading.

This time last year crude was in the triple digits after a historic ride to almost $150 a barrel. Prices eventually dipped into the $30s in January but have doubled in recent months amid some signs of recovery from the worst recession in a generation.

"Global economic conditions continue to impact the energy industry both in the volatility of commodity prices and reduced demand for products," Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

Oil giants like Exxon Mobil are still notching billions of dollars in profits, but topping last year's mammoth numbers is almost unthinkable unless crude goes on another unprecedented ascent. That's unlikely given the state of the global economy.

For the first six months of 2009, Exxon Mobil said it earned $8.5 billion, or $1.73 a share, down roughly 62 percent from the $22.6 billion, or $4.24 a share, in made in the first half of 2008. Revenue declined to $138.5 billion from $254.9 billion.