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    Murphy Profits Tumble

    Dismal refining business prompts 10 percent drop.

    EL DORADO, Ark. -- Murphy Oil Corp., which operates hundreds of gas stations and convenience store kiosks on Wal-Mart parking lots in the southeast, reported a 10 percent drop in quarterly profits on Tuesday after posting a loss in its refining and marketing business.

    Murphy, based in El Dorado, Ark., said third-quarter net income fell to $37.4 million from $41.7 million a year earlier. Results for this year's quarter included special items that increased income by $7.9 million, or 17 cents a share, helping offset the effects of dismal returns from its refining and marketing business, according to Reuters.

    The company's refining and marketing operations posted a loss of $13.8 million for the quarter.

    Along with the rest of the refining industry, Murphy's refining business has been hard hit by high fuel inventories and rising costs for crude oil-based feedstocks. A weak economy and a depressed travel industry have added to the industry's problems, undercutting demand for oil products such as jet fuel.

    Murphy curtailed production at its refinery in Meraux, La., for much of the quarter in an attempt to minimize the effect of weak profit margins and warned analysts that earnings would likely fall short of estimates.

    Murphy's exploration and production results, meanwhile, were helped by lower costs, higher production and rising prices for crude oil and natural gas amid concerns over a possible U.S. military strike against Iraq. That business earned $48 million in this year's third quarter, up from $26.7 million in the same quarter of 2001, the report said.

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