Chevron Corp. on Monday said it expects to post a higher first-quarter profit than it reported for last year's fourth quarter, due in part to rising oil prices.
Chevron did not offer a specific profit forecast in advance of its quarterly report on April 29.
The company said the outlook for its exploration and production arm has been improved by the rise in oil prices, which have soared more than 30 percent since mid-February as traders worry political violence in the Middle East and North Africa could disrupt crude supplies.
Chevron got $88.23 per barrel for crude oil during January and February, up almost 11 percent from its fourth-quarter average of $79.56, and up 20 percent from the first quarter of 2010. Natural gas prices are also higher than they were in the fourth quarter, although they have fallen from first quarter 2010 levels.
However, Chevron said it expects a "slightly lower" first-quarter profit at the portion of its business that includes oil refining, compared with the fourth quarter. The company cited reduced gains from asset sales, largely offset by higher U.S. profit margins.
The projections are based on the first two months of the first quarter, Chevron said.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect Chevron to post a first-quarter profit of $2.86 per share, on average.
Chevron updated its first-quarter expectations after its shares fell $1.88, or 1.7 percent, to close at $107.78. In after-hours trading, the stock fell a further 28 cents to $107.50.