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Norfolk Southern Corp. reported third-quarter net income of $460 million, up 2 percent, and diluted earnings per share of $1.55, up 4 percent, compared with third-quarter results last year.The Class I surpassed surpassed Wall Street analysts' expectations for the quarter. Analysts expected NS to post earnings of $1.45 per share, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.NS' railway operating revenue fell 7 percent to $2.5 billion for the quarter compared with the same period a year ago, due to reduced volumes and lower fuel surcharge revenue. Overall volumes declined 4 percent to 1.9 million units for the quarter, according to an NS press release."Our continued focus on efficiency and asset utilization, balanced with our commitment to customer service, drove an operating ratio of 67.5 percent for the quarter and a record 68.7 percent for the first nine months, setting us well on the way to achieving productivity savings of about $250 million and an operating ratio below 70 percent for the year — even in the face of economic headwinds," said Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer James Squires.Moving forward, the company is well positioned for growth opportunities over the longer term, Squires said.Also during the quarter, NS reported general merchandise revenue dropped 10 percent to $1.6 billion compared with Q3 2015. The company's five merchandise commodity groups reported the following year-over-year revenue results:• Chemicals, $408 million, down 10 percent;• Agriculture, $380 million, even;• Metals/construction, $337 million, up 2 percent;• Automotive, $236 million, down 4 percent; and• Paper/forest, $191 million, down 6 percent.Intermodal revenue slipped 7 percent to $575 million. Volume fell 1 percent as a result of lower volume from Triple Crown Services, which was restructured last year. Excluding Triple Crown Services, domestic intermodal volume and international volume rose 8 percent and 1 percent, respectively.NS' coal revenue declined 18 percent to $397 million compared with a year ago. Above-normal stockpiles and low natural gas prices combined to decrease coal volume by 15 percent.Railway operating expenses fell 10 percent to $1.7 billion primarily due to cost-cutting initiatives, lower fuel expenses, the absence of last year's restructuring costs, and gains from the disposition of operating property.Income from railway operations remained flat at $820 million compared with third-quarter 2015. The 67.5 operating ratio improved 2.2 points on a year-over-year basis.
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