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NEW YORK  (AFP) - ExxonMobil, the world's largest energy company, on Thursday posted a 41 percent profit jump for the second consecutive quarter as sales soared again on higher oil prices.

Net earnings rose to $10.33 billion, or $2.13 per share, in the July-September period, the company said.

Sales increased 31.5 percent from a year ago to $125.33 billion, outstripping analyst forecasts of $113.56 billion.

The Texas-based oil and natural gas giant said it had spent $8.6 billion on capital expenses and exploration, resulting in a record level of $26.7 billion for the first nine months of the year.

'We continue pursuing new opportunities to meet growing energy demand while supporting economic growth, including job creation,' ExxonMobil chairman Rex Tillerson said in a statement.

For the first nine months of the year, earnings were up 49 percent from the same period a year ago to $31.7 billion.

In recent years, ExxonMobil has shifted away from its traditional strength in oil and invested deeply in natural gas, notably with its $41 billion acquisition of gas driller XTO Energy last year.

The acquisition came as US energy companies have been seeking to unlock vast reserves of shale gas in the United States, using new drilling techniques, as older oil fields run out or are pushed offline by political unrest abroad.

The company said third quarter oil-equivalent production decreased four percent from a year ago, while natural gas production was 'about flat' compared to the third quarter of 2010.

ExxonMobil is the world's largest publicly traded company in terms of market capitalization. It has upstream oil and gas projects in countries as far afield as Russia, Canada, Nigeria, Angola and Papua New Guinea.

During the third quarter, ExxonMobil struck a strategic cooperation deal with Russia's Rosneft to develop Arctic and Black Sea resources, expand technology sharing and undertake joint international projects.

The strategic cooperation agreement will initially see ExxonMobil invest a relatively modest $2.2 billion in the Arctic's Kara Sea and another $1 billion in Black Sea projects.

The company also signed an agreement with the Indonesian government for development of the Natuna gas resource.

ExxonMobil said it spent $5.5 billion in the third quarter in a share buyback and planned to spend another $5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.