Railroad CSX Corp. said Tuesday its first-quarter earnings jumped 30 percent as higher shipping prices and stronger demand in most of its markets offset rising fuel costs.
CSX, based in Jacksonville, Fla., earned $395 million, or $1.06 per share, compared with $305 million or 78 cents per share a year earlier. Revenue rose 13 percent to $2.81 billion.
The results topped expectations on Wall Street. Analysts polled by FactSet expected the nation's third-largest railroad to report a profit of $1.04 per share on revenue of $2.73 billion.
Overall shipping volume improved 7 percent. Revenue and volume rose in every category except agricultural products, which was down because of lower feed shipments.
Automotive shipments, which include cars and car parts, improved the most in the first three months of the year. Shipping volume for those products was up 20 percent, while revenue rose 29 percent. CSX said its chemicals and metals markets also benefited from shipments of materials used in making cars.
U.S. automakers' sales were up about 20 percent in the first quarter of this year from the same period last year.
CSX said shipments of forest products improved 10 percent. While construction materials volume was weak, shipments of pulp board and packaging for consumer products rose.
Intermodal shipments, which are mostly retail goods moved between trucks and trains, rose 11 percent. The category, the railroad's largest, is an important indicator of consumer spending.
Volume for CSX's second-largest haul, coal, rose just 3 percent, but prices were up 19 percent. Coal is used to generate electricity and produce steel. Rising prices to ship coal can trickle down to consumers through rising utility bills and higher prices for everything from cars to homes.
Expenses for CSX rose 10 percent in the quarter. The biggest jump was the cost of fuel — up 42 percent from a year ago.
CSX is the first major U.S. railroad to report first-quarter results. Union Pacific Corp., the country's largest railroad, will report on Wednesday. CSX's eastern rival Norfolk Southern Corp. is scheduled to release results next week.
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