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Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Shell, Total, and ConocoPhillips, three of the world's largest oil-and-gas companies, both posted a sharp increase in second-quarter profits on Thursday as big oil's earnings season got underway — but Shell's performance fell short of analysts expectations, and its stock dipped slightly in pre-market trading.

Why it matters: The earnings reflect the strengthening of oil prices, which have been on a largely upward trend over the past two years, even as many companies have sought to keep costs restrained.

  • Shell said it's spreading the wealth to investors, announcing the launch of a $25 billion share buyback in 2018-2020.

Buzz: Per Bloomberg, Shell's repurchase program "should soothe investors who have grown increasingly anxious about when they’ll see the reward for sticking with Shell through the biggest oil-industry downturn in a generation."

By the numbers: Shell's second quarter profit was $4.7 billion, up 30% from the same period last year.

  • Total, meanwhile, saw an even sharper rise — the France-based multinational giant's Q2 profits jumped 44% to $3.6 billion on the strength of higher prices and higher output.
  • The company noted that Brent crude oil prices averaged $74 per barrel in the second quarter, which is 50% higher than the same period last year.
  • "Total benefitted fully from this by remaining focused on operational efficiency," Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement alongside the results.

Meanwhile, Houston-based ConocoPhillips posted a $1.6 billion profit for Q2 Thursday, and now expects "to spend $6 billion this year to reflect a higher $65 per barrel price environment, Conoco said. It had initially budgeted $5.5 billion for 2018," per Reuters.

Go deeper, via The Wall Street Journal: "Shell Kicks Off Big Oil Earnings With Growth Spurt"

Go deeper

Janet Yellen confirmed as Treasury secretary

Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary on Monday.

Why it matters: Yellen is the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, a Cabinet position that will be crucial in helping steer the country out of the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Scoop: Red Sox strike out on deal to go public

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The parent company of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C. has ended talks to sell a minority ownership stake to RedBall Acquisition, a SPAC formed by longtime baseball executive Billy Beane and investor Gerry Cardinale, Axios has learned from multiple sources. An alternative investment, structured more like private equity, remains possible.

Why it matters: Red Sox fans won't be able to buy stock in the team any time soon.