American Airlines and Continental Airlines had first-quarter losses on higher fuel costs. America West posted a profit because of gains...

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American Airlines and Continental Airlines had first-quarter losses on higher fuel costs. America West posted a profit because of gains from investments used to counter rising fuel prices.

Total costs at all three carriers rose as the average fuel price climbed 46 percent from a year earlier, overshadowing increases in revenue. The nine largest U.S. airlines had losses totaling at least $2 billion this quarter, according to an estimate by Merrill Lynch analyst Michael Linenberg.

American said yesterday that its first-quarter net loss narrowed to $162 million from $166 million, because of an excise-tax refund. Continental, fifth biggest in the United States, said its loss widened to $184 million from $124 million. America West’s net income was $33.6 million, compared with a net loss of $1.6 million.

American shares rose 35 cents to $10.51 yesterday. They have fallen 4 percent this year.

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Continental’s stock fell 9 cents to $12.06. The shares have declined 11 percent this year.

America West shares fell 31 cents, or 6.4 percent, to $4.50. They have declined 32 percent this year.

Sprint

Wireless business offsets slow sales

Sprint yesterday said profit more than doubled in the first quarter as a surge in its wireless business offsets flat or declining sales in local and long-distance phone service.

For the three months ended March 31, the telecommunications company said income jumped to $472 million, or 31 cents per share, from $223 million, or 16 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

The earnings just missed the predictions of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call, which estimated earnings of 32 cents per share.

Sprint shares closed down 3 cents at $22.51 yesterday. The stock has been trading in the 52-week range of $16.83 to $25.80.

eBay

28% jump brightens execs’ outlook in ’05

A surge in new customers and strong growth overseas caused eBay’s profit to jump 28 percent from the same period last year, and optimistic executives brightened their outlook for the rest of 2005.

eBay, one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies, announced first-quarter earnings yesterday of $256.3 million, or 19 cents per share, compared with $200.1 million, or 15 cents per share in the same period of 2004.

Excluding special items, the 10-year-old online auction company earned $275.5 million, or 20 cents per share, up from $210.8 million, or 16 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2004.

For the three months ended March 31, San Jose-based eBay reported first-quarter revenue of $1.03 billion, up 36 percent from $756.2 million in the year-ago period.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call expected eBay to earn 18 cents per share on sales of $1.03 billion.

eBay shares rose 94 cents, or 2.9 percent, to close at $33.11 yesterday before the earnings were released.

In after-hours trading, the shares — which had a 2-for-1 stock split in February — gained 17 cents to $33.28.

Motorola

Comeback continues as forecast exceeded

Motorola, the world’s second-largest mobile-phone maker, reported a better than expected 14 percent increase in first-quarter earnings yesterday, continuing its comeback on strong sales.

Net earnings were $692 million, or 28 cents per share, up from $609 million, or 25 cents per share, a year earlier. That easily exceeded the consensus estimate of 19 cents per share by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Motorola shares rose 21 cents, or 1.4 percent, to close at $14.93 yesterday before the report was released, then added another 17 cents in late trading. The stock is down 13 percent in 2005.

Ford

$1.2 billion earnings way below last year

Ford said yesterday it earned $1.2 billion in the first quarter, sharply below last year’s results but far ahead of money-losing rival General Motors.

Ford said earnings for the January-March period amounted to 60 cents a share, compared with net income of $1.95 billion, or 94 cents a share, in the first quarter of 2004. As in recent quarters, the company’s finance unit provided the bulk of the profits.

The results beat Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had expected earnings of 39 cents a share. Ford shares rose 6 cents yesterday to close at $9.34.

JPMorgan Chase

Bank soundly beats Wall St. estimates

JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s second-largest bank, yesterday reported first-quarter earnings of $2.3 billion that soundly beat Wall Street estimates.

The results for the January-March period amounted to 63 cents a share and compared with net income of $1.9 billion, or 92 cents per share, a year earlier. The year-earlier figure does not include Bank One, which JPMorgan Chase acquired last year on July 1. The earnings per share declined because there were more shares outstanding in the latest quarter than a year ago.

JPMorgan Chase said that its first-quarter results include an after-tax charge of $558 million, or 15 cents a share, for the settlement involving WorldCom, which collapsed in 2002 amid massive accounting irregularities. It also includes $90 million, or 3 cents a share, for merger costs.

Excluding the charges, earnings would have been $2.9 billion, or 81 cents a share, the bank said.

That was well above the 69 cents per share expected by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

JPMorgan Chase shares fell 19 cents to close at $34.76 yesterday.

Altria

Profit climbs 18%, net income increases

Altria, parent of Philip Morris USA, said yesterday its first-quarter profit increased 18 percent.

Altria said net income increased to $2.60 billion, or $1.25 per share, from $2.19 billion, or $1.07 per share, in the year-earlier period. Earnings from continuing operations were $1.24 per share — beating by one penny the $1.23-per-share estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Shares of Altria, a Dow component, fell $1.37 to close at $62.75 yesterday.

Caterpillar

Sales surge boosts earnings estimates

Heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar posted record first-quarter profits yesterday, riding a sales surge that outpaced Wall Street’s expectations and boosted the company’s earnings estimates for the year.

The manufacturer’s net income was $581 million for the quarter, or $1.63 a share, up 38 percent from $412 million, or $1.16 a share, during the same quarter a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call had expected a profit of $1.36 a share.

Shares of Caterpillar, a Dow industrial, rose $3.09, or 3.6 percent, to close at $88.04 yesterday.

United Technologies

Earnings increase, along with forecasts

United Technologies, maker of Pratt & Whitney jet engines and Otis elevators, said first-quarter earnings rose 18 percent as it sold more aerospace parts and elevator equipment. The company boosted its annual sales and profit forecasts.

Net income exceeded analysts’ estimates, climbing to $651 million, or $1.28 a share, from $551 million, or $1.08, a year earlier.

United Technologies was expected to earn $1.25 a share, the average estimate of 18 analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Profit this year will climb to $5.90 to $6.15 a share, from $5.29 in 2004, the company said.

Shares of United Technologies, a Dow stock, rose 77 cents to $99.04 yesterday. They have risen 13 percent in the past year.

Compiled from Bloomberg News and The Associated Press