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Exxon Earnings: Carnage

Moments ago energy titan Exxon Mobile, which not too long ago was bigger than AAPL by market cap, and is now roughly half the size of the phone maker, reported earnings which were, in a word, carnage.

Starting at the bottom, EPS of $1.00 was not only a big miss to already reduced expectations of $1.11, but also the worst quarter since 2009.

This was down a whopping 51% from a year ago, when the company made $2.05, and unlike other companies which mask the divergence between profits and EPS through countless gimmicks, XOM's Earnings also plunged by a comparable number, or about 52%.

Revenues of $74 billion, while modestly better than expected, were also a debacle, plunging 33% from a year ago, and yet US upstream ops lost $47 million, down a massive $1.2 billion from a year ago, while non-US upstream ops, generated only $2.1 billion vs $4.6 billion a year ago.

So revenues higher, but margins and profits lower, how come? Simple: boosting volumes to offset declining prices, and as has been the case with so many other companies, Exxon's oil-equivalent production increased 3% from 2014, with liquids up 8.9 percent and natural gas down 3.6 percent.

The problem, again, was margins.

A bigger problem is that while EPS and revenues crashed by 51% and 33%, CapEx was down just 16% from $9.8 billion to $8.3 billion. Expect Q3 capex to be slashed across the board. As a reminder, the main revision in GDP had to do with fixed investment. Well, as more companies tighten the belt on capital spending, GDP is poised to go in one direction only -  down.

But the biggest problem for the company, and the reason the stock is tumbling, is this part from the press release:

During the second quarter of 2015, ExxonMobil purchased 12 million shares of its common stock for the treasury to reduce the number of shares outstanding at a cost of $1 billion. Share purchases to reduce shares outstanding are currently anticipated to equal $500 million in the third quarter of 2015. Purchases may be made in both the open market and through negotiated transactions, and may be increased, decreased, or discontinued at any time without prior notice.

In other words, here is yet another company that is slashing its buyback (just like Cheveron did in January), precisely at the time when it should be boosting its buyback, when its stock is within spitting distance of the 52 week low hit earlier this week.

And since "investors" don't like a non-sure thing, they are doing the only thing they know when they can no longer frontrun the Fed or the corner office's buying intentions: they sell.