Roadway Woes Spark Inventory Worry

Concerns about the economy were pulling on truck stocks in late-day trading after Roadway ( ROAD) forecast disappointing earnings.

On Thursday, the Akron, Ohio-based trucking company said that it expects third-quarter tonnage and revenue levels to fall below its previous estimates, because of recent economic weakness.

Roadway expects earnings to come in at 33 cents to 36 cents a share, 10% to 20% better than results in the previous quarter, but well below analysts' predictions of 52 cents a share. The company's revised forecast also compares negatively to earnings of 43 cents a share in the year-ago period.

In response to the announcement, shares of Roadway were lately trading down $3.82, or 14.2%, at $23.11. Other trucking stocks were dragging as well. CNF ( CNF) was off 3.2%, at $30.36, FedEx ( FDX) was moving lower 0.80% at $47.04, and Yellow ( YELL) was trading behind 5.5% at $22.50.

"If trucking companies are reporting smaller-than-expected loads, it raises the possibility that inventories are becoming excessive again," said John Lonski, an economist at Moody's Investor Service.

Thursday's news follows lower-than-expected retail chain store sales that imply inventory buildup. More announcements like Roadway's could bring July's strength in durable goods orders into question. But trucking analysts were not prepared to infer much sectorwide bad news from Roadway's shortfall.

"They are not a good proxy for the rest of the group," said John Barnes, an analyst at Deutsche Bank. "Their quarter ends Sept. 7, so they will not see the benefit of peak shipping later in the month."

According to Barnes, other truckers have been optimistic about the peak shipping-season in September. "There is nothing that suggests a double-dip economic recession to us," he said. "I think people are just nervous owning stuff before the three-day weekend."

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