Railroad CSX Corp. said a "dynamic" U.S. economy, combined with an across-the-board improvement in shipping volume and higher prices, drove its second-quarter profit up 36 percent.
CSX, the third-largest railroad in the country, is the first among its peers to report earnings for the April-to-June period. Railroads' performance is an important window on the economy because trains carry so many things that consumers and businesses use every day — from clothing to cars.
Shipping volume was up in every CSX category in the three-month period, except food and consumer shipments, which were flat. Shipments of vehicles and parts jumped the most — 63 percent compared with last year. U.S. auto sales slowed in June after a string of positive months, but they were still significantly above brutal 2009 levels.
Metal shipments, linked to the auto and construction markets, surged 44 percent. Shipments of lumber and other forest products, used in the still-shaky housing market, rose 2 percent.
CSX, which operates its signature blue-and-yellow locomotives from Canada to Florida and west to the Mississippi River, said that "the economy remains dynamic" and "markets overall continue to improve."
Shipments on North American railroads have grown steadily so far this year, as manufacturing activity ratcheted up, though most traffic still isn't as strong as it was in 2008.
CSX, based in Jacksonville, Fla., earned $414 million, or $1.07 per share in the second-quarter, compared with $305 million, or 77 cents per share a year earlier.
Excluding some one-time gains and losses, the company reported earnings from continuing operations of $414 million, or $1.07 per share, compared with $282 million, or 71 cents per share, in the same period last year.
Revenue rose 22 percent to $2.66 billion.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, who usually exclude one-time items from their estimates, on average expected a profit of 98 cents per share on revenue of $2.63 billion.
CSX shares rose in aftermarket trading, adding 68 cents at $52.44.
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