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CSX 4Q profit declines 9% as railroad hauls less freight

In this Oct. 14, 2019 photo a CSX locomotive rests on railroad tracks at a rail yard, in Framingham, Mass. CSX Corp. reports financial results Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
In this Oct. 14, 2019 photo a CSX locomotive rests on railroad tracks at a rail yard, in Framingham, Mass. CSX Corp. reports financial results Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

OMAHA, Neb. – CSX said its profit declined 9% in the fourth quarter as the railroad hauled 7% less freight.

The Jacksonville, Florida, based railroad said Thursday it earned $771 million, or 99 cents per share, in the quarter. That's down from $843 million, or $1.01 per share, a year ago.

The results topped the 97 cents per share profit that the analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research expected.

CSX said its revenue declined 8% to $2.89 billion because of the volume decline, but the railroad cut its expenses 9% to $1.73 billion in the quarter. Four analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $2.92 billion revenue.

Executives at the railroad predict that its revenue will be between flat to roughly 2% down in 2020 as industrial activity remains weak and coal demand continues to decline.

CSX CEO Jim Foote said it's too early to say what effect this week's trade deal with China or the new North American trade agreement will have on railroad traffic. But he said businesses might be more willing to make investment decisions in the wake of those developments.

“I think it's a good sign in increasing business confidence,” Foote said about the preliminary China trade deal. “The dispute with China created a lot of uncertainty, and that's not good for business.”

Edward Jones analyst Jeff Windau said CSX's outlook is a little disappointing, but the railroad is also being conservative in its predictions for the year.

For all of 2019, CSX said its profit grew 1% to $3.33 billion, or $4.17 per share. That's up from $3.31 billion, or $3.84 per share, a year ago. That was in line with the $4.17 analysts surveyed by FactSet predicted.

CSX operates more than 21,000 miles of track in 23 Eastern states and two Canadian provinces.

Its shares have climbed roughly 6% since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has increased almost 3%.

They were down about 3.5% in after-market trading following the release of the earnings report.

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Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on CSX at https://www.zacks.com/ap/CSX