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Noble Energy results beat, but output forecast drags on stock

[NEW YORK] US oil producer Noble Energy Inc on Thursday posted a surprise quarterly profit, excluding special items, on a rise in crude prices and cost cuts, but a tepid production forecast sent its shares nearly 5 per cent.

While Noble did not cut its capital budget as some peers have done in recent weeks, Wall Street has generally rewarded companies that pump more oil, not leave it in the ground.

Houston-based Noble forecast third-quarter production at 340,000 to 350,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, about 8 per cent below Wall Street's expectations.

Shares of Noble were down 4.7 per cent at US$26.72 in morning trading.

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The company said its second-quarter loss widened to US$1.5 billion, or US$3.20 per share, from US$315 million, or 73 cents per share, a year earlier.

Noble sold its natural gas assets in the Marcellus shale for US$1.23 billion in May, a few months after it bought rival Clayton Williams Energy Inc to grow in the Permian, the largest US oilfield.

Excluding one-time items, earnings were 5 cents per share. By that measure, analysts expected a loss of 14 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"The quality of our asset base, our superior execution capabilities, and our robust financial strength position us to create differential long-term value," chief executive officer Dave Stover said in a statement.

Production volumes fell about 4 per cent to 408,000 boe/d.

Noble said its capital spending for the year should be at the top end of its previously forecast range of US$2.3 billion to US$2.6 billion. It expects to put most of that in US shale operations, with the rest in an Israeli natural gas project in which it is involved.