The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: CSX, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Oct. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the CSX Corp. (NYSE:CSX-Free Report), Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU-Free Report), Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC-Free Report) and Union Pacific Corp. (NYSE:UNP-Free Report).

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

Here are highlights from Tuesday's Analyst Blog:

4 Railroad Stocks Poised to Beat Q3 Earnings

An improving U.S. economy, substantial surge in manufactured and retail goods, and a sharp rebound in many end markets are expected to fuel the future growth of the Freight Railroad industry.

Despite the projection of further headwinds for coal -- one of the major product shipments of rail -- the sector emerged strongly on infrastructural developments that supported natural gas, grain crop and petrochemical product shipments.

Strong Growth

The Association of American Railroads (AAR), the main industry trade group, reported that the U.S. rail traffic for Sep 2014 with both carload and intermodal volume increased year over year. While carload volume witnessed 27% year-over-year growth, the intermodal volume grew 4.5% year over year. Notably, Sep 2014 marked the seventh successive moth of carload volume increase. This also marks the first volume rise since early 2011.

Out of a total of 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month, 15 commodities generated year-over-year carload increases in the month of September. However, one major exception was coal which saw a 1.7% decline year over year. Railroads appear to be on track to recovering from the operational hazards faced earlier this year. The AAR has expressed its confidence that the industry's operational efficiency positions it better for the remainder of 2014.

Given these positives, it might be a good idea to zero in on a handful of Railroad services stocks that are poised to beat earnings estimates this quarter. An earnings beat should help these stocks gain investors' confidence and show price improvement.

How to Make a Selection?

With the existence of a number of industry players, finding the right stocks that have the potential to beat earnings estimates could appear to be a difficult task, but our proprietary methodology makes it fairly simple for you. One way to narrow down the list of choices during this earnings season is by looking at stocks that have the combination of a favorable Zacks Rank – Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), 2 (Buy) or 3 (Hold) – and a positive Zacks Earnings ESP.

Earnings ESP is our proprietary methodology for identifying stocks that have high chances of surprising with their next earnings announcement. It shows the percentage difference between the Most Accurate Estimate and the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Out Top Picks

For investors seeking to apply this strategy to their portfolio, we have chosen 4 Railroad services stocks each with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) that may stand out this earnings season:

CSX Corp. (NYSE:CSX-Free Report): Headquartered in Jacksonville, FL, the company is one of the nation's leading transportation suppliers. It provides rail-based transportation services which include traditional rail service and the transport of intermodal containers and trailers through its subsidiaries CSX Transportation Inc. and CSX Intermodal Inc. 

With an earnings ESP of +2.13%, the company will declare its third quarter of 2014 results on Oct 14, after the closing bell. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings stands at 47 cents, reflecting year-over-year growth of 2.37%. During the last 30 days, the consensus earnings per share estimate moved up by a penny.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for revenues is pegged at $3.15 billion, up 4.87% year over year. CSX generated a moderate positive average earnings surprise of 0.90% in the last four quarters.

Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU-Free Report): The company is a railroad operator with two primary subsidiaries. While the Kansas City Southern Railway Company, is one of the seven Class I railroads operating in the U.S. Kansas City Southern de Mexico, is one of the three large regional railroads in Mexico. It also owns 50% of the Panama Canal Railway Company in Panama.

Kansas City Southern will announce its third quarter results on Oct 17, before the opening bell and has an earnings ESP of +1.59%. For the third quarter, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings stands at $1.26, indicating a year-over-year growth of 14.55%. The consensus earnings per share estimate moved up 1 cent over the last 30 days.

 Meanwhile, the consensus estimate for revenues is pegged at $669 million, up 7.56% year over year. The company also generated a moderate positive average earnings surprise of 0.83% in the last four quarters.

Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC-Free Report): This Virginia-based railroad holding company owns two major freight railroads, Norfolk Southern Railway Co. and Norfolk Western Railway Co. These railroads operate across numerous states, the District of Columbia and the Province of Ontario.

Norfolk Southern will announce third-quarter 2014 financial results on Oct 22, before the opening bell and has an earnings ESP of +1.68%. The Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings stands at $1.79, indicating year-over-year growth of 16.99%.

In the last 30 days, the consensus earnings per share estimate increased 2 cents. The same for revenues is pegged at $3.06 billion, up 8.18% year over year. The company registered a positive average earnings surprise of 1.56% in the last four quarters.

Union Pacific Corp. (NYSE:UNP-Free Report): Based in Omaha, NE, the company provides rail transportation services across 23 states in the U.S. through its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad Company.

As the largest railroad in North America, Union Pacific connects the Pacific and Gulf Coast ports with the Midwest and eastern U.S. gateways. The company also connects with Canada's rail systems and is the only railroad, serving all the six major gateways to Mexico.

With an earnings ESP of +1.33%, the company is scheduled to release third-quarter 2014 results on Oct 23, before market opens. For the third quarter, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for earnings stands at $1.51, reflecting year-over-year growth of 21.37%.

During the last 30 days, the consensus earnings per share estimates moved up by 2 cents. The same for revenues is pegged at $6.09 billion, up 9.28% year over year. The company generated a positive average earnings surprise of 1.15% in the last four quarters.

Today, Zacks is promoting its ''Buy'' stock recommendations. Get #1Stock of the Day pick for free.

About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

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Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Inherent in any investment is the potential for loss. This material is being provided for informational purposes only and nothing herein constitutes investment, legal, accounting or tax advice, or a recommendation to buy, sell or hold a security. No recommendation or advice is being given as to whether any investment is suitable for a particular investor. It should not be assumed that any investments in securities, companies, sectors or markets identified and described were or will be profitable. All information is current as of the date of herein and is subject to change without notice. Any views or opinions expressed may not reflect those of the firm as a whole. Zacks Investment Research does not engage in investment banking, market making or asset management activities of any securities. These returns are from hypothetical portfolios consisting of stocks with Zacks Rank = 1 that were rebalanced monthly with zero transaction costs. These are not the returns of actual portfolios of stocks. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index. Visit for information about the performance numbers displayed in this press release.

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