Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC) was downgraded by Zacks Investment Research from a “buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a report issued on Wednesday.

According to Zacks, “Shares of Norfolk Southern have outperformed its industry in a year's time. The company is benefitting from volume growth. The company's efforts to reduce costs are also impressive. Meanwhile, operating ratio is constantly improving mainly owing to its cost reduction efforts. Norfolk Southern’s initiatives to reward shareholders through dividends and buybacks also look promising. The company increased its quarterly dividend payout by 11% in July. However, the dismal performance of the automotive division raise concerns. What's worse is that the performance is unlikely to reverse drastically in the near future. The rise in operating expenses due to higher fuel prices and other factors add to the woes. The company's high debt levels are also worrisome. “

Several other analysts also recently commented on NSC. Barclays reaffirmed a “hold” rating and set a $190.00 price objective on shares of Norfolk Southern in a research note on Wednesday. Citigroup raised Norfolk Southern from a “neutral” rating to a “buy” rating and set a $176.00 price objective for the company in a research note on Monday, June 25th. Stifel Nicolaus upped their price objective on Norfolk Southern from $159.00 to $176.00 and gave the company a “hold” rating in a research note on Thursday, July 26th. Scotiabank set a $175.00 price objective on Norfolk Southern and gave the company a “buy” rating in a research note on Wednesday, July 25th. Finally, Cowen reaffirmed a “buy” rating and set a $188.00 price objective on shares of Norfolk Southern in a research note on Wednesday, July 25th. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, fourteen have assigned a hold rating and eight have assigned a buy rating to the stock. The stock has a consensus rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $165.70.

Shares of Norfolk Southern stock traded down $1.25 on Wednesday, hitting $181.10. The stock had a trading volume of 35,085 shares, compared to its average volume of 1,761,716. Norfolk Southern has a 52-week low of $125.59 and a 52-week high of $186.91. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.55, a quick ratio of 0.70 and a current ratio of 0.81. The company has a market capitalization of $51.11 billion, a P/E ratio of 27.41, a PEG ratio of 1.67 and a beta of 1.41.

Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC) last posted its earnings results on Wednesday, July 25th. The railroad operator reported $2.50 earnings per share for the quarter, beating the Thomson Reuters’ consensus estimate of $2.31 by $0.19. The business had revenue of $2.90 billion during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $2.87 billion. Norfolk Southern had a return on equity of 14.53% and a net margin of 52.36%. The business’s quarterly revenue was up 9.9% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the previous year, the business earned $1.71 EPS. analysts forecast that Norfolk Southern will post 9.13 earnings per share for the current year.

In related news, Chairman James A. Squires sold 34,077 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Monday, August 13th. The stock was sold at an average price of $171.73, for a total value of $5,852,043.21. Following the sale, the chairman now owns 63,958 shares in the company, valued at approximately $10,983,507.34. The transaction was disclosed in a legal filing with the SEC, which is accessible through this hyperlink. Also, VP Cynthia C. Earhart sold 2,370 shares of the company’s stock in a transaction that occurred on Wednesday, August 29th. The stock was sold at an average price of $175.09, for a total value of $414,963.30. Following the completion of the sale, the vice president now owns 2,370 shares in the company, valued at approximately $414,963.30. The disclosure for this sale can be found here. Corporate insiders own 0.23% of the company’s stock.

Several institutional investors and hedge funds have recently added to or reduced their stakes in the stock. Spark Investment Management LLC acquired a new stake in Norfolk Southern during the 1st quarter valued at $271,000. Natixis Advisors L.P. grew its holdings in Norfolk Southern by 22.0% during the 1st quarter. Natixis Advisors L.P. now owns 31,883 shares of the railroad operator’s stock valued at $4,329,000 after buying an additional 5,757 shares during the last quarter. Franklin Resources Inc. grew its holdings in Norfolk Southern by 12.5% during the 1st quarter. Franklin Resources Inc. now owns 283,946 shares of the railroad operator’s stock valued at $38,554,000 after buying an additional 31,441 shares during the last quarter. IFM Investors Pty Ltd grew its holdings in Norfolk Southern by 10.2% during the 1st quarter. IFM Investors Pty Ltd now owns 8,988 shares of the railroad operator’s stock valued at $1,220,000 after buying an additional 831 shares during the last quarter. Finally, Quantbot Technologies LP acquired a new stake in Norfolk Southern during the 1st quarter valued at $1,396,000. Institutional investors and hedge funds own 72.43% of the company’s stock.

Norfolk Southern Company Profile

Norfolk Southern Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the rail transportation of raw materials, intermediate products, and finished goods. It also transports overseas freight through various Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports, as well as coal, automotive, and industrial products; and provides commuter passenger services.

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Analyst Recommendations for Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC)

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