United Parcel Service Inc. is expected to report higher profit and revenue on Friday when it issues third-quarter results before the market opens, but investors will be looking for clues as to how it's adapting to customer preferences for cheaper shipping options.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: UPS has been benefiting from growth in online shopping but has been hurt by a trend among international customers that are switching from pricey priority air deliveries to slower but cheaper shipping services.
UPS officials have sought to reassure investors that they know how to find less-expensive ways to handle economy-class shipments and can manage through these trends by targeting growing industries such as health care. They also are reducing costs by retiring older, inefficient planes.
On a seasonal note, rival FedExCorp. said this week that it expects heavier volume during the holidays this year, including an 11 percent increase on the busiest day, which it believes will be the Monday after Thanksgiving. A UPS spokesman declined to comment on that forecast.
WHY IT MATTERS: UPS and FedEx are seen as bellwethers of the global economy because they operate in many places and handle shipments for many different kinds of businesses and consumers. If they start to see a pickup or slowdown, it's a sign of consumer and business confidence.
WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts surveyed by FactSet expect adjusted earnings of $1.15 per share. That excludes any special one-time items. Revenue is expected to be $13.59 billion.
LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: The Atlanta-based company reported net income of $469 million, or 48 cents per share. The results were weighed down by heavy spending on pension restructuring. Excluding those items, the company would have earned $1.06 per share. Revenue was $13.07 billion.