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JB Hunt shares soar on strong 4th-quarter results

LOWELL, Ark. (AP) -- Shares of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. hit an all-time high Thursday after the trucking company posted fourth-quarter results that beat market expectations, reflecting more business from customers and efforts to rein in costs.

J.B. Hunt earned $84 million, or 70 cents per share, for the three months ended Dec. 31. That compared with net income of $72.6 million, or 61 cents per share, in the 2011 fourth quarter. Its prior quarter included a 2 cent-per-share expense for severance agreements and a charitable contribution.

Total revenue increased 11 percent, to $1.34 billion from $1.2 billion.

J.B. Hunt said its added new accounts and increased its load volume during the period, which offset a decline it its truck segment as its fleet size was smaller than last year. Operating revenue, excluding fuel surcharges, increased about 10 percent.

Analysts, on average, were expecting the company to earn 69 cents per share for the period, on revenue of $1.33 billion.

Signs are pointing to improving demand for shipping. Competitor Swift Transportation Co.'s also reported a strong fourth quarter and truckload delivery company's shares soared after it beat market expectations.

J.B. Hunt's shares jumped $4.11, about 6.5 percent, to close at $67.57 after high-volume trading throughout the day. The stock hit $68.58 during the session, its highest point ever. The stock had previously traded between $48.74 and $64.12 during the past 52 weeks.