Trucking Companies Slide as JB Hunt and Knight-Swift Indicate Extended Recovery Period

U.S. trucking company stocks declined on Wednesday following disappointing earnings reports from industry leaders JB Hunt Transport Services and Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings, which suggested a prolonged recovery period for the freight sector.

The sector faces challenges from a shift in consumer spending from goods to services and persistent global shipping delays. JB Hunt reported a miss on first-quarter forecasts this Tuesday, primarily due to diminished demand in its largest sector, intermodal transport.

Earlier that day, Knight-Swift adjusted its profit expectations downward for the first and second quarters, citing an excess of available capacity, disruptions from severe January weather, and intensified pressure from shippers demanding lower freight rates.

“The recovery timeline is extending more than anticipated, and even with potential upcoming changes in demand or supply, ongoing weaknesses are likely to impact JB Hunt’s earnings and profit margins for a significant part of the year,” noted Evercore analyst Jonathan Chappell.

Chappell described Knight-Swift’s results as “exceeding even the gloomiest predictions,” emphasizing that both reports underline increased difficulties at the tail end of the freight downturn, significantly lowering the baseline for a potential cyclical recovery.

In response, at least 11 brokerages have reduced their price targets for JB Hunt. Shares in JB Hunt and Knight-Swift dropped by 8% and 3% respectively, with other major truckload companies like XPO, Werner, and ArcBest experiencing declines ranging from 2% to 7%.

Stephens analyst Justin Long remarked, “There seems to be no immediate catalyst to significantly alter the volume or pricing landscape in the industry.”

Echoing this sentiment, TD Cowen analyst Jason Seidl expressed concerns, stating, “The prospects for a recovery in the second half of the year are increasingly doubtful given the current circumstances.”

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