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    Murphy Oil Profits on High Prices

    Quarterly net income up $11 million from last year.

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Murphy Oil Corp.'s first-quarter profits were up nearly 12 percent as international crude prices allowed the Arkansas oil driller to get top dollar for its reserves, reported the Arkansas News Bureau.

    The El Dorado, Ark.-based oil company, which operates nearly 700 gasoline stations at Wal-Mart locations, also said that record-high pump prices will boost the company's quarterly profits for the rest of the year.

    For the period ended March 31, Murphy reported net income of $98.2 million, compared to $87.1 million a year ago. Murphy's revenue rose 31 percent to $1.65 billion, compared to $1.26 billion a year earlier.

    Higher earnings in the company's oil exploration and production were able to offset losses in refining and marketing operations and higher net costs from corporate functions, according to Claiborne Deming, Murphy's president and CEO.

    "Based on stronger oil and gas prices in 2004, Murphy's first quarter consolidated earnings were the best since the second quarter of 2003," Deming said in a statement.

    Record-high oil prices experienced in the first quarter were forecasted to weaken in the second quarter, "but have thus far held strong based on high demand and an effective curtailment of production by OPEC," he added.

    Murphy also expects future earnings to continue climbing, forecasting second-quarter profits between 90 cents and $1.20 per share and daily oil production to spike up to 117,000 barrels of oil per day, according to the news source.

    Murphy's refining and retail operation also will see stronger results in the second quarter, Deming said, with the completion of maintenance work at the company's Meraux, La.-based refinery and as more vacationers hit the road in the summer.

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