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Earnings Preview: Delta Air Lines

ATLANTA (AP) -- Delta Air Lines Inc. reports third-quarter results on Tuesday, and investors will be watching to see how the government shutdown affected travel spending.

The impact of the shutdown may be more muted for Delta than for competitors United and US Airways, since both of those airlines have hubs in Washington.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Cowen and Company airline analyst Helane Becker said a key issue will be October revenue growth.

Becker said she has lowered expectations for the airlines generally in October because of the government shut down. However, she noted that government-related travel was already down about 35 percent since March.

Still, leisure demand has been strong and could make up for some lost business travel, she wrote.

WHY IT MATTERS: The government shutdown is a good reminder for investors that airlines are subject to sharp swings in demand. Business travelers are their most profitable customers, but they also buy their tickets on short notice. So when there's a government shutdown, or a disease outbreak, or violence somewhere, travel spending can drop in a hurry.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts surveyed by FactSet are expecting an adjusted profit of $1.36 per share on revenue of $10.47 billion.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: Delta posted net income of $1.05 billion, or $1.23 per share. A big part of its profit came from a $440 million gain from fuel hedges.