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A Conoco Phillips gas station in Boulder, Colorado January 24, 2007.

RICK WILKING/RICK WILKING/REUTERS

U.S. oil companies ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum posted higher quarterly profits that topped Wall Street forecasts, helped by rising oil prices.

Conoco, the third-largest U.S. oil company behind Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp., said prices for its oil rose by about a third from a year ago, offsetting declines in its production.

The company has been selling off assets to cut its debt and expects to spin off its refining arm in the second quarter.

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Its fourth-quarter profit climbed 70 per cent to $3.4-billion (U.S.), or $2.56 per share, from a year ago. Excluding one-time items, earnings of $2.02 per share were higher than the $1.76 that analysts had expected, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Occidental saw its profit climb by 33 per cent to $1.6-billion as it increased its oil and gas production in the United States and benefited from the higher oil prices.

It produced 748,000 barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) per day in the quarter, with 449,000 (BOE) a day coming from the United States.

But Hess Corp disappointed investors by posting quarterly results that missed forecasts.

The company posted a quarterly loss as its production shrank. Its operating costs were hurt by drilling failures in Indonesia and it took charges to shut down its Caribbean refinery.

Net loss for the fourth quarter was $131-million, or 39 cents per share. Excluding $525-million in charges related to the closure of the Hovensa refinery in St. Croix, Hess' earnings per share of $1.17 fell short of analysts' average forecast of $1.27.

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