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Supply chains: XPO Logistics CEO 'can't say the economy is super strong'

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The trucking and truck brokerage company XPO logistics (XPO) isn't forecasting a robust freight economy.

"Well, Tonnage is down here in April, last month, low to single— low to mid-single digits," XPO Logistics CEO Brad Jacobs recently told Yahoo Finance (video above). "So it's not up. So we can't say the economy is, like, super strong and roaring real fast, and we're turning down freight left and right."

Truck tonnage is often seen as a broader signal of the general health in the economy. Trucks carry approximately 70% of domestic freight in the U.S., moving manufacturing, wholesale and retail goods to their next destination. According to the American Trucking Association, 10.23 billion tons of freight (primary shipments only) were transported by trucks in 2020.

The transportation company said on their earnings call their North American LTL (Less-than-truckload) segment grew "revenue by 15% year over year to $1.1 billion, the highest revenue of any quarter in our history" — excluding fuel.

Trucks move past cargo containers at a Bayonne port on October 15, 2021 in Bayonne, New Jersey. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Trucks move past cargo containers at a Bayonne port on October 15, 2021 in Bayonne, New Jersey. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

However, the company noted "a 0.8% decline in tonnage per day, which represented 4.1 percentage points of acceleration" from their fourth quarter growth rate as their network flow improved. "The 4% increase in the level of weight per day from the fourth quarter nicely outpaced typical seasonality," Matt Fassler, Chief Strategy Officer said on the call.

Jacobs said that "the pricing power" the company is getting their "revenue per day was up in April over the first quarter. So the business model is working well," however, looking ahead the executive noted that the "economy is chugging along, but not roaring fast."

The transportation company reported its quarterly results on Monday beating forecasts, as management raised its financial forecasts for the year. XPO reported$1.25 earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter, while analysts were looking for EPS of 93 cents on sales, Barron reports. The firm had revenue of $3.47 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $3.22 billion.

The company raised its full year-EPS guidance to $5.40 from $5.20, despite the sale of the company's U.S. intermodal-shipping business— which generated its own sales and earnings.

The sale of the shipping business combined "with available debt capacity under committed borrowing facilities" gave the transportation company "$2 billion of liquidity at quarter end" — which allowed them to "repaid $630 million" in debt, reducing future interest expenses.

Some analysts on Wall Street remain bullish on the stock.

"Brokerage business continues to be overlooked, performance is consistent. We continue to believe that investors may under appreciate the positives that have been occurring within XPO's Brokerage business," wrote Thomas Wadewitz, a senior equity research analysts at UBS Bank. "We view 1Q22 load growth of 23% as strong, and expect that loads will remain elevated at strong levels in 2022 and into 2023."

"XPO's share of the Brokerage market only stands at ~3% of the industry, leaving plenty of opportunity for growth. As technology continues to increase in importance within the Brokerage industry, we believe that investors will begin to appreciate the strong foundation for an enduring enterprise that XPO has been building," the noted added.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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