- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - CSX Corp. on Tuesday shined some light on the state of the nation’s economy, as the railroad operator reported first-quarter profit down 30 percent from a year earlier.

CSX, like other major U.S. rails, is considered an indicator of the nation’s economic health because it transports everything from cars to heating oil, chemicals and building materials across the country.

It has been moving less of those things than it did a year ago as the recession drags on.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company said Tuesday it earned $246 million, or 62 cents per share for the quarter, compared with $351 million, or 85 cents per share a year earlier.

Revenue fell 17 percent to $2.25 billion.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, predicted profit of 51 cents per share on revenue of $2.26 billion.

CSX _ the first major U.S. railroad to report first-quarter results _ said volume was down across all segments, as construction and consumer-related markets remained weak.

Shipments fell across every commodity group except agricultural products, which was flat compared with the first quarter of 2008.

CSX’s transport of cars and car parts fell the most, plunging 53 percent from a year earlier.

Metal shipping volume dropped by 48 percent, while shipments of phosphates and fertilizers fell 34 percent.

But CSX said it was able to trim operating expenses by 17 percent through productivity initiatives throughout its network. It furloughed thousands of workers as demand plunged through the quarter.

The company also said fuel expenses decreased by $250 million because of lower fuel prices and shrinking volume. CSX paid an average $1.39 a gallon for locomotive fuel in the first quarter of 2009 compared to $2.82 a gallon in the same period a year ago.

In aftermarket trading, CSX shares, which finished the regular session down 50 cents at $28.39, added $1.63, or 5.6 percent, to reach $30.52.

Rival Norfolk Southern Corp. is the next major U.S. railroad set to report first-quarter earnings on April 21. The two largest rails, Union Pacific Corp. and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., are both expected to release results on April 23.

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