Houston, US — Exxon Mobil raised its spending target to heights not seen since the historic oil-market collapse began in 2014, bucking the cost-cutting trend among rival energy explorers. Annual capital outlays will average $32bn to the end of 2020, a 24% increase from 2018, the driller said on Wednesday. CEO Darren Woods defended the budget increase in a presentation of his long-term vision to analysts at an event in New York. “Society needs us to make these investments,” Woods told the gathering, an annual rite held at the New York Stock Exchange. “Perhaps the biggest risk to the industry today is underinvestment.” Exxon, attempting to arrest years of production declines, is going against the grain of competitors such as Chevron that are holding the line or reducing spending. Analysts have soured on Exxon as an investment, with almost two-thirds recommending clients avoid buying any more of the stock. The shares fell as much as 1.3% in pre-market trading. Exxon assured investors a...

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