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Photo: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Shell and Total SA announced mammoth earnings declines Thursday that reflect the pandemic's toll on energy prices and demand, but the companies nonetheless beat expectations and eked out profits.

Driving the news: Shell announced second-quarter adjusted net earnings of $638 million, an 82% decline from the same period last year.

  • The big drop stems from lower prices and sales, and lower refining margins, but it was partly offset by gains in their trading divisions and cost cuts, Shell said.
  • Total said its profit fell to $126 million, down 96% from the same quarter in 2019 — and like Shell, trading performance cushioned steep losses elsewhere.

The intrigue: "Although better known for their oil fields, refineries and filling stations, Shell, Total and also BP Plc run huge in-house oil trading businesses that can handle more than 25 million barrels a day of crude and products," Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: The quarterly numbers are one marker of how COVID-19 — as well as climate policies, activist pressure and other forces — is shaking up the sector's outlook in the near- and long-term.

Yes, but: Shell's profits don't include a $16.8 billion write-down on the value of its assets, though Shell had previously warned it could have been up to $22 billion, due to downward revisions of future price forecasts.

  • And Total yesterday announced a $8.1 billion write-down.

What's next: ExxonMobil and Chevron report Q2 earnings Friday before markets open.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 3, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Making sense of Trump's energy era

Data: EIA; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Market forces have been in the driver's seat during President Trump’s first term, which means oil-and-gas kept growing (until the pandemic), he couldn’t revive coal, and the country stayed far away from policies that would drive steep future carbon cuts.

Where it stands: The administration launched a big deregulatory push to scuttle Obama-era climate policies and support coal, oil and gas. Here are a few snapshots of what happened over the last four years.

1 hour ago - World

Former spy Steele defends controversial Trump Russia dossier

Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele arrives at the High Court in London in July 2020. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The author of the "Steele Dossier," containing unverified claims about former President Trump told ABC News he stands by his controversial report, according to excerpts from an upcoming documentary published Sunday.

Why it matters: Former U.K. intelligence officer Christopher Steele's dossier was used as part of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged links to Russia's government.

Ina Fried, author of Login
5 hours ago - Technology

Intel CEO sees making own chips as a matter of national security

Pat Gelsinger. Photo: Axios on HBO

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger is putting the pressure on the U.S. government to help subsidize chip manufacturing, insisting the current reliance on plants in Taiwan and Korea as "geopolitically unstable."

Why it matters: There is bipartisan support for funding the domestic semiconductor industry, but Congress has yet to sign the check. The Senate has passed the CHIPS Act that includes $52 billion in semiconductor investment, but it has yet to pass the House.