Norfolk Southern Corporation ( NSC Quick Quote NSC - Free Report) have surged more than 30% in 2019 compared with the industry’s 28.6% rally.
Reasons Behind the Price Rise The company’s operations are benefiting significantly from the implementation of the precision scheduled railroading operating plan, TOP21. Network efficiency of the Merchandise unit improved greatly owing to reduced circuity, train miles and train start following the implementation of the first phase of the new operating model. The execution of the second phase is currently underway. Norfolk Southern’s measures to streamline operations by cutting costs are also paying off. Evidently, the company’s operating ratio (operating expenses as a percentage of revenues) improved in each of the three quarters of 2019. It anticipates this key metric to show an improvement in 2019, over 65.4% achieved in 2018. Additionally, the company aims for a full-year operating ratio of 60% by 2021. Further, a robust free cash flow generation ($1.5 billion generated in the first nine months of 2019) enabled the company to frequently reward its shareholders. In the first nine months of 2019, the company returned $2.3 billion to its shareholders through dividends ($705 million) and buybacks ($1,595 million). Norfolk Southern hiked its dividend payout twice in 2019. What’s in Store for 2020? Going into 2020, the company will continue to witness impressive bottom-line growth owing to its cost-cutting measures. The easing trade tensions (phase one trade deal reached between the United States and China) add to the positivity. However, there are a few setbacks that might linger into 2020. The company’s automotive sub-group (part of its merchandise division) is witnessing declining volumes due to decelerating vehicle production in the United States and the scenario is unlikely to change drastically any time soon. Persistent below-par performance of other key components of the merchandise segment, such as forest and consumer plus metals and construction, might drag into next year. Additionally, contracting coal and intermodal volumes might weigh on the company’s growth prospects in 2020. Consequently, the Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2020 earnings has been revised 4.7% downward over the past 90 days. Zacks Rank & Key Picks Norfolk Southern carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks in the broader Transportation sector are Hawaiian Holdings, Inc. ( HA Quick Quote HA - Free Report) , Ryanair Holdings plc ( RYAAY Quick Quote RYAAY - Free Report) and GATX Corporation ( GATX Quick Quote GATX - Free Report) . While Hawaiian Holdings and Ryanair Holdings sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), GATX carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see . the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here Shares of Hawaiian Holdings, Ryanair Holdings and GATX have gained more than 12%, 21% and 19%, respectively, in a year’s time. Breakout Biotech Stocks with Triple-Digit Profit Potential The biotech sector is projected to surge beyond $775 billion by 2024 as scientists develop treatments for thousands of diseases. They’re also finding ways to edit the human genome to literally erase our vulnerability to these diseases. Zacks has just released Century of Biology: 7 Biotech Stocks to Buy Right Now to help investors profit from 7 stocks poised for outperformance. Our recent biotech recommendations have produced gains of +98%, +119% and +164% in as little as 1 month. The stocks in this report could perform even better. See these 7 breakthrough stocks now>>