Murphy Oil Shares Plunge On Earnings Miss

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Shares of Murphy Oil plunged $7.49, or 10.2%, to close at $65.74 today after the company reported a fourth-quarter profit that missed Wall Street estimates. Murphy earned $174.1 million, or 90 cents per share, compared with $318 million, or $1.65 per share, a year earlier. The profit report was released Wednesday after the close of U.S. markets.

Analysts were expecting Arkansas-based Murphy (MUR) to post a profit of 92 cents a share. Crude oil production fell in the last three months of the year due to lower volumes at an offshore Malaysian field, where maintenance and bad weather slowed the installation of drilling equipment, according to the Associated Press.

On Thursday, Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Sankey pared his rating on Murphy shares to ''hold'' from ''buy'' while lowering his price target to $80 from $90. Howard Weil also downgraded the stock to ''market perform'' from ''market outpeform.''

Murphy's crude oil, condensate and gas liquids production averaged 117,084 barrels per day in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to 138,269 barrels per day in the 2009 quarter, the company said in a statement. Downtime at an offshore field in Malaysia hampered output during the quarter, Murphy said.

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