BP (BP) is not only Europe's second-biggest company by market value after Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A), it is also one of the five major oil companies in the world. So when BP reported earnings today, many looked at the results and the outlook as a way to get a glimpse into the other oil majors reporting in the next few days, including ExxonMobil (XOM) -- and as way to find out what the company expects of oil demand and, by proxy, the global economy.
Not surprisingly, since oil prices plunged from a record $147 a barrel last July to less than $33 in January, and then more than doubled to around $68 today, BP reported its second-quarter profits were down by more than half to $3.14 billion compared to last year's quarter. Still, profits were 14 percent higher than the the first quarter bottom and also ahead of analysts' expectations. (BP's average oil price in the quarter was $52.33 a barrel, $109.95 in the second quarter of 2008, and $41.26 in the first quarter.)