Shares of Delta Air Lines Inc. rose 0.7% in premarket trade Thursday, after the air carrier reported fourth-quarter total revenue that beat expectations and provided an upbeat outlook. Earnings fell to $622 million, or 84 cents a share, from $980 million, or $1.25 a share, in the same period a year ago. Excluding non-recurring items, adjusted earnings per share came to 82 cents, matching the FactSet consensus. Total revenue slipped to $9.46 billion from $9.50 billion, but was above the FactSet consensus of $9.40 billion. Passenger unit revenue declined 2.7%, but that was less the Delta's guidance of a decline of 3% to 5%. Load factor slipped to 85.1%, in line with the FactSet consensus, from 85.2%, as system capacity increased 0.9%. For the first quarter, Delta expects passenger unit revenue to be flat to up 2%, with capacity flat to down 1%. "As we move into 2017, we are seeing our unit revenues turn positive which should return the company to margin expansion by the back half of the year," said Chief Executive Ed Bastian. The stock has rallied 9.5% over the past 12 months through Wednesday, while the NYSE Arca Airline Index has run up 45% and the S&P 500 has gained 17%.
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