) --

Norfolk Southern

(NSC) - Get Report

trounced Wall Street expectations for its third-quarter results on Wednesday as improvement in all three of its main business lines more than offset increased fuel expenses.

The Norfolk, Va.-based railroad operator reported net income of $554 million, or $1.59 a share, on revenue of $2.89 billion. The average estimate of analysts polled by

Thomson Reuters

was for a profit of $1.41 a share in the September-ended quarter on revenue of $2.87 billion.

"We continue to see modest improvement in most of our business groups, and we remain focused on the long-term enhancement of our franchise," CEO Wick Moorman said in a statement. Moorman said that the company set an all-time record for net income.

The stock closed Wednesday's regular session at $69.74, up 0.6%, ahead of the report. Year-to-date, the shares have gained more than 10%, ranging from a 52-week high of $78.40 in late July to a low of $57.57 in early October.

Norfolk Southern's key growth driver in the latest quarter was its coal and intermodal businesses, which saw revenue bump up 27% to $899 million and 19% to $551 million respectively from year-ago levels. Revenue from the company's general merchandise business totaled $1.44 billion in the quarter, up from $1.28 billion last year.

The company was also upbeat in its outlook, saying it expects continued growth across most of its portfolio.

"The economic outlook for most industrial sectors calls for slow, but steady, growth -- including upward projections for steel and North American light-vehicle production," the company said in its conference call. "We see positive signs for international trade, which continues to bode well for our export coal, manufactured products, grain and intermodal business.

The stock was last quoted at $72.55 in after-hours action, adding 4% on volume of nearly 100,000, according to


The numbers continued an impressive earnings period for Class I railroads, as


(CSX) - Get Report


Union Pacific

(UNP) - Get Report


Kansas City Southern

(KSU) - Get Report

all reported solid fiscal third quarters.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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