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Airline stocks fall for second straight day

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks of major U.S. airlines fell for a second day after US Airways said Wednesday that a key revenue measurement was weaker than expected in March.

US Airways blamed the federal government's automatic spending cuts for cutting into last-minute bookings and causing March unit revenue to be flat instead of up 2 to 4 percent, as the airline had predicted.

Unit revenue, a measure of revenue for each seat flown one mile, is a closely watched indicator of pricing power in the airline industry. Airlines usually sell last-minute tickets at high prices, so a drop in late bookings could cause the revenue measure to fall.

On Tuesday Delta Air Lines Inc. also blamed government spending cuts that started March 1 for hurting late bookings. US Airways could be more vulnerable because of its big operation at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington.

Traffic on US Airways rose in March by 5.2 percent, and the average flight was 85.6 percent full. U.S. airlines are operating planes at occupancy loads not seen since 1945.

UBS analyst Kevin Crissey said the US Airways revenue figure was disappointing but somewhat expected after Delta's comments the day before. He reduced his estimate of US Airways Group Inc.'s 2013 adjusted earnings to $2.42 per share from $2.64 per share.

Overall, analysts expected the airline to earn $2.99 per share this year, according to FactSet.

In afternoon trading US Airways shares were down 12 cents to $15.62, and Delta was down 43 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $14.51.

Shares of United Airlines parent United Continental Holdings Inc. fell 70 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $28.68; Southwest Airlines Co. lost 10 cents to $12.58; JetBlue Airways Corp. was off 12 cents at $6.22; Alaska Air Group Inc. was down $1.48, or 2.5 percent, to $57.78; and Allegiant Travel Co. was down $2.62, or 3 percent, to $83.70.

Low-fare carrier Spirit Airlines Inc. was an exception, up 9 cents to $24.88. Shares of American Airlines parent AMR Corp., which have traded over the counter since shortly after its bankruptcy filing in November 2011, were down 21 cents, or 5.6 percent, to $3.52.

Broader indexes were also lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq down about 1 percent.