DETROIT (Reuters) - No. 3 U.S. railroad CSX Corp <CSX.O> on Tuesday reported a slight dip in quarterly net profit, in results that met Wall Street analyst expectations, and said conditions for its business were improving after taking a hit from low commodity prices and a strong U.S. dollar.
CSX reported a slight increase in coal freight volumes in the fourth quarter from a year earlier after nearly two years of decline which have pummeled the U.S. railroads. The railroads have seen volumes of coal, a high-margin business, slump as utilities switched to burning cheaper natural gas. The strong U.S. dollar had also hurt exports.
The Jacksonville, Florida-based company reported fourth-quarter net income of $458 million or 49 cents a share, compared with $466 million or 48 cents per share a year earlier. Analysts had expected earnings per share of 49 cents.
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"With business conditions gradually improving and the ongoing transformation (of CSX)... we will continue to deliver sustainable shareholder value," chief executive Michael Ward said in a statement accompanying the earnings release.
CSX reported revenue of $3.04 billion, versus $2.78 billion a year earlier. Analysts had expected revenue of $2.89 billion.
The company reported higher freight volumes in most commodity groups, with coal up 8 percent and automotive shipments up 11 percent.
The railroad's profit dipped slightly because of higher costs for labor, materials, fuel and depreciation.
(Reporting By Nick Carey; editing by Diane Craft and David Gregorio)