North America

FedEx surges most in two decades on outlook, broad rally

Tis Meyer / Planepics.org

By Michael Sasso and Mary Schlangenstein (Bloomberg). FedEx Corp. climbed the most in 22 years after the shipping company’s improved profit outlook alleviated fears about the weak global economy and the broader stock market hit highs for this year.

Profit will be $10.70 to $10.90 a share for the year ending in May, compared with a previous forecast of $10.40 to $10.90, FedEx said late Wednesday. Analysts had been anticipating $10.55 on average. The company cited a $1.7 billion cost-reduction program that was almost complete and said moderate U.S. economic growth was fueling demand for shipments.

FedEx also reported earnings that topped Wall Street estimates and disputed the competitive risks from Amazon.com Inc. bolstering its own air-delivery network by leasing planes.

“Investor concerns were over the global market, and the threat of Amazon, and this quarter’s results alleviated concerns on both fronts,” Ben Hartford, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. said Thursday. Some of the rally could be from investors buying shares to cover short positions in the stock, he said.

However, “make no bones about it, the results were better than expected,” Hartford said.

FedEx jumped 12 percent to close at $161.34 in New York, marking its sharpest climb since July 1993. The stock posted the biggest gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, which approached its break-even level for the year, spurred on by a weaker dollar.

FedEx operates the world’s largest cargo airline, a fleet of package delivery trucks and a freight operation, moving goods as diverse as financial documents, pharmaceuticals and electronics around the globe. As such, it’s viewed by some people as a U.S. economic bellwether.

Reversing Course

Investors were down on FedEx headed into Wednesday’s earnings report, partly because some trends, including less-than-truckload volumes, were discouraging, said BB&T Capital Markets analyst Kevin Sterling.

The company’s better-than-expected performance “really flips it around,” he said. FedEx Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith’s comments Wednesday that Amazon doesn’t pose a major threat to FedEx also relieved investors, Sterling said.

“It’s a combination of good sentiment, better outlook and some short covering,” Sterling said.

UBS Securities raised its target price for FedEx by $17 to $186 a share and stuck with a buy rating.

Beating Estimates

FedEx reported that adjusted earnings rose to $2.51 a share in the third quarter, beating analysts’ estimates of $2.34 a share.

Sales of $12.7 billion topped Wall Street predictions of $12.4 billion. A program to reduce expenses at the FedEx Express unit, the largest portion of the company, enabled operating income for that business to jump 51 percent. Holiday shipments that exceeded the company’s expectations for both volume and size boosted costs in the FedEx Ground segment.

“Our positive financial momentum should continue into our upcoming fiscal 2017, where we expect solid growth in earnings and cash flow,” Alan Graf, chief financial officer, said in a statement.

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