UPDATE 1-CSX sees economy moving in ‘positive direction’

* CSX sees growth this year in “all of our major markets”

* Sees signs of revitalization in coal market

* Less strong areas: things related to housing market

* Expects to bring back some furloughed workers

* Shares rise as high as 4 percent

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, April 14 (BestGrowthStock) – The chairman of U.S.
railroad operator CSX Corp (CSX.N: ) said on Wednesday that the
economy appears to be moving in a “positive direction” and that
its major markets should grow this year.

The comments from CSX Chairman Michael Ward come a day
after the company reported a 22 percent rise in profit, beating
Wall Street analysts’ expectations.

Shares rose as high as 4 percent on Wednesday.

“The economy seems to be moving in a very positive
direction. It’s been growing,” Ward told Reuters in an
interview. We’re very encouraged. We think all of our major
markets will show growth year over year.”

Rail traffic is an important gauge of economic activity in
the United States because they carry a range of goods whose
sales provide measures of consumer demand. Wall Street watches
CSX’s results closely because the company is the first of the
major U.S. railroads to report first-quarter earnings.

CSX expects improvement in exports and industrial sectors
throughout 2010 as consumer demand stabilizes and global trade
improves.

Even the lackluster coal market was showing signs of
revitalization due to export demand and should show positive
year-over-year volume this year, Ward said. Demand among U.S.
farmers for fertilizers ahead of the spring planting of U.S.
corn and soybean crops was another bright spot.

“The areas that will continue to be less robust are things
related to the housing market,” Ward said. That includes
forestry, he said. “We don’t see that bouncing back anytime in
the near future.”

Core pricing gains of about 5 percent in the first quarter
should hold stable, and pricing gains should be between 4
percent and 5 percent for the year, the company said.

With volumes rising, CSX wants to bring back more of its
1,093 furloughed employees. As many as 2,533 were furloughed
earlier, the company said.

Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX said on Tuesday that first
quarter earnings from continuing operations and on a net basis
totaled $306 million, or 78 cents per share, versus $254
million, or 64 cents per share on an ongoing basis last year.

Revenue rose 11 percent to nearly $2.5 billion in the first
quarter, including a 64 percent spike in automotive volume.

Analysts expected CSX — which operates in 23 states east
of the Mississippi and in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and
Ontario — to earn 69 cents a share on revenue of $2.38 billion
on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Productivity gains were key as the company’s operating
ratio for the quarter improved to a record 74.5 percent,
compared with 76.8 percent a year earlier.

The coal business remained a low point for CSX with volume
in that area down 13 percent in the quarter as coal stockpiles
remained high.

CSX has said it expects demand from China to spur more
movement later in the year.

CSX shares rose 2.8 percent, or $1.49, to $54.77 on the New
York Stock Exchange, after climbing as high as $55.48.

Investment

(Reporting by Carey Gillam. Editing by Robert MacMillan)

UPDATE 1-CSX sees economy moving in ‘positive direction’