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Can Freight Revenues Aid Union Pacific's (UNP) Q4 Earnings?

Zacks Equity Research

Union Pacific Corporation UNP is slated to release fourth-quarter 2018 results on Jan 24, before the market opens.

Last quarter, the company delivered a positive surprise of 2.9%. Moreover, the company has an encouraging earnings history having surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate in three of the trailing four quarters, the average beat being 1.5%.

Let’s see what awaits the company in the fourth quarter.

Why a Likely Positive Surprise?

Our proven model shows that Union Pacific is likely to beat on earnings this earnings season too as it comprises a perfect combination of the two key ingredients.

Earnings ESP: Union Pacific has an Earnings ESP of +0.77%, representing the difference between the Most Accurate Estimate, which stands at $2.06 and the Zacks Consensus Estimate, pegged lower at $2.04. You can uncover the best stocks to buy or sell before they’re reported with our Earnings ESP Filter.

Zacks Rank: Union Pacific carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Notably, stocks with a favorable Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), 2 (Buy) or 3 alongside a positive ESP have significantly higher chances of beating estimates. Therefore, the above combination raises the odds of a likely earnings surprise for this stock.

Conversely, Sell-rated stocks (#4 or 5) should never be considered going into an earnings announcement, especially when the company is seeing negative estimate revisions.

Union Pacific Corporation Price and EPS Surprise

 

Union Pacific Corporation Price and EPS Surprise | Union Pacific Corporation Quote


Factors Likely at Play

With an upbeat freight scenario in the United States, robust freight revenues are anticipated to boost the company’s fourth-quarter results. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for fourth-quarter freight revenues stands at $5,357 million, higher than $5,087 million in the fourth quarter of 2017.

However, contracting coal volumes due to pricing pressures might affect the company’s fourth-quarter results. In fact, at the Credit Suisse 6th Annual Industrials Conference held last November, the company stated that fourth-quarter volumes at the energy and agricultural segments declined 10% and 4%, respectively, as of Nov 25. This bearish commentary raises concerns about the company’s final-quarter performance.

On the contrary, total volumes are expected to improve on a year-over-year basis and lift overall results in the to-be-reported quarter. The consensus mark for total carloads (volumes) is pegged at $2,228 million, above $2,167 million in the year-ago period.
 
Meanwhile, high operating expenses might partly hamper bottom-line growth in the quarter under review.

Other Stocks to Consider

Investors interested in the broader Transportation sector may check out some other stocks worth considering, namely ArcBest Corporation ARCB, Expeditors International of Washington, Inc. EXPD and Allegiant Travel Company ALGT as these too possess the right mix of elements to beat on earnings in the upcoming releases.

ArcBest has an Earnings ESP of +4.78% and a Zacks Rank #2.  The company will report fourth-quarter financial figures on Jan 30.

Expeditors has an Earnings ESP of +0.39% and a Zacks Rank of 1. The company will announce fourth-quarter results on Feb 19. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Allegiant has an Earnings ESP of +2.35% and a Zacks Rank of 2. The company is scheduled to release fourth-quarter earnings numbers on Jan 30.

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