Try this for perspective, Fools: Only a select group of companies can even dream of generating the sort of quarterly top-line results that ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) spent on buying back its own shares in its most recent period. In fact, the company's very size -- $98.35 billion in quarterly revenue -- should make investors think twice before gnashing their teeth over a slight expectations miss.

Let's look at Exxon's results for the quarter. I've already given you the quarterly revenue number, which slipped from $99 billion a year ago. Net income was $10.26 billion, also down somewhat year-over-year from $10.36 billion. On a per-share basis, with ExxonMobil having spent $7 billion buying back its stock, the reduction in average shares outstanding resulted in a fully diluted figure of $1.83, up from $1.72 last year. By the way, the cost of buybacks can be laid atop another $2 billion spent on quarterly dividends.

As has been the case with the few other energy companies that released results before the world's largest publicly-owned oil company -- including BP (NYSE:BP), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and Occidental Petroleum (NYSE:OXY) -- ExxonMobil's exploration and production unit was affected by lower commodities prices. Its upstream earnings contribution therefore declined 17% to $5.9 billion. At the same time, higher global refining and market margins boosted the downstream contribution by 37% to $3.4 billion.

Unlike ConocoPhillips, which took a $4.5 billion after-tax charge in the quarter to write off its Venezuelan assets (following a dispute with that country's president), ExxonMobil hasn't yet written off any of its estimated $750 million investment in that area, despite being involved in a similar scuffle.

Exxon's shares were hit immediately after the release because of the shortfall represented by the results from dart throwers' (a.k.a. analysts') expectations. But is it reasonable to forecast to the penny the results of a company of this magnitude, one whose operations are complex, technically challenging, and frequently remote?

ExxonMobil, like its brethren, has been hit by a combination of reduced commodities prices -- global crude prices today are about $10 higher than the company's average second-quarter realizations -- and escalating costs. Economists generally call those "exogenous variables." I call beating up on a company for inaccurate forecasts "patent silliness."

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Alas, Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.