As Coal Shipments Slip, CSX Earnings Fall

Earnings Reuters

CSX Corp. said Wednesday that revenue for its second quarter fell 12% as falling coal shipments—a key business for freight lines—continued to pressure the railroad operator. 

Continue Reading Below

Shares of CSX, though, rose 4.6% to $28.25 in late afternoon trading as company's earnings topped expectations. The stock is now up 9% for the year. 

The Jacksonville, Fla., company released its earnings report more than an hour earlier than expected to correct "information released via Twitter earlier today." Further details about the early release or the other information on Twitter weren't immediately available. 

CSX has struggled over the past two years as sagging demand for coal, amid plunging energy prices and a strong U.S. dollar, has cut into rail traffic. 

For the latest quarter, coal volume for CSX was down 30%. The company has said it expects the market to remain challenging, with coal volumes down about 25% for the year. 

"The environment that we see is really typified by low natural gas prices, low commodity prices and a strong U.S. dollar, and we expect those to continue even though we had seen some small moderation in those in the past few weeks," CSX Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro said in May at an industry conference, according to a FactSet transcript. 

Continue Reading Below

Wednesday, CSX said it expected 2016 full-year earnings per share to decline, reflecting the continuing transition in the energy markets, along with the effect of the strong U.S. dollar and low commodity prices. The company, though, didn't provide a specific forecast. 

CSX has, however, met or exceeded earnings expectations over the past three quarters, having responded to sector turmoil with tightening efficiency that has included layoffs and the mothballing of trains. 

For the quarter ended July 13, CSX reported a profit of $445 million, or 47 cents a share, down from a year-ago profit of $553 million, or 56 cents a share. 

Revenue fell 12% to $2.7 billion. 

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected earnings to decline 21% to 44 cents a share on revenue of $2.7 billion. 

According to the Association of American Railroads, U.S. carloads through the past six months fell 12.5% compared with the same period last year, with coal carloads plunging 30.2%. Petroleum and associated products also dragged on the traffic tally, falling 21.6%. 

Hopes that intermodal traffic—the hauling of shipping containers—would help offset the drop-off in other categories, haven't quite been met. Total intermodal units fell a modest 2.7%. 

Write to Ezequiel Minaya at ezequiel.minaya@wsj.com

What do you think?

Click the button below to comment on this article.