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Norfolk Southern (NSC): Stock Likely to Beat Q1 Earnings

Norfolk Southern Corporation NSC is slated to release first-quarter 2016 results after the close of trading on Apr 21.

In the final quarter of 2015, the company had posted a negative earnings surprise of 5.51%, primarily because of declining coal revenues. Let’s see how things are shaping up for the upcoming announcement.

Why a Likely Positive Surprise?

Our proven model shows that Norfolk Southern is likely to beat earnings because it has the right combination of two key ingredients.

Zacks ESP: Norfolk Southern’s Earnings ESP stands at +1.04%. This is because the company’s Most Accurate estimate is $0.97, whereas the Zacks Consensus Estimate is pegged at $0.96. A favorable ESP serves as a meaningful and leading indicator of a likely positive surprise. 

Zacks Rank: Norfolk Southern currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Note that stocks with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), #2 (Buy) or #3 have a significantly higher chance of beating earnings. Conversely, Sell-rated stocks (Zacks Rank #4 or 5) should never be considered going into an earnings announcement.

The combination of Norfolk Southern’s Zacks Rank #3 and +1.04% ESP makes us reasonably confident of an earnings beat.

What is Driving the Better-than-Expected Earnings?

This Norfolk, VA-based railroad operator has been struggling with respect to earnings, having outshined the Zacks Consensus Estimate only once in the last four quarters. Coal-related headwinds have played spoilsport.

Although coal-related issues will hurt first-quarter results, an earnings beat doesn’t look very difficult for Norfolk Southern as the Zacks Consensus Estimate is pretty conservative at $0.96, thanks to the drastic downward revision in earnings estimates following the company’s lackluster fourth-quarter results. 

Apart from the first-quarter results, a commentary on rival Canadian Pacific’s CP recent decision to scrap plans of buying Norfolk Southern is also expected on the latter’s conference call. Meanwhile, we are impressed with Norfolk Southern’s efforts to reward shareholders through dividend payments/buybacks. We also expect an update on such shareholder friendly activities during the conference call.

Other Stocks to Consider

Here are some other transportation companies you may want to consider as our model shows they have the right combination of elements to post an earnings beat this quarter:

Canadian National Railway Company CNI, with an earnings ESP of +1.47% and a Zacks Rank #1. The company will report results on Apr 25.

Allegiant Travel Company ALGT, with an earnings ESP of +0.70% and a Zacks Rank #3. The company is scheduled to report results on Apr 27.

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ALLEGIANT TRAVL (ALGT): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CDN NATL RY CO (CNI): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
NORFOLK SOUTHRN (NSC): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
CDN PAC RLWY (CP): Free Stock Analysis Report
 
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