Why Shares of Marten Transport, Ltd. Are Accelerating Today

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of truck shipping company Marten Transport, Ltd (NASDAQ: MRTN  ) are revving up as much as 8.6% today following release of the first-quarter-earnings results.

So what: Pro-forma and adjusted revenue jumped 6.9% to $127.5 million. Net income slipped 26% to $5.3 million, or $0.16 per share, slightly missing analysts' expectation of $0.17 per share. According to the company, the dip in operating profit came mostly from a "reduction in the gain on disposition of revenue equipment and an increase in supplies and maintenance."

The "severe weather conditions" that affected the industry as a whole hit both its volumes and costs, according to Marten Transport. Weather problems are of course only temporary. We have seen many other trucking companies report similar results. Echo Global Logistics (NASDAQ: ECHO  ) said "terrible weather conditions", and Swift Transportation Company (NYSE: SWFT  ) noted "severe weather", affected everybody. This factor was especially true east of the Rockies where, according to Swift Transportation, "the weather impact was substantial."

Now what: Marten Transport's outlook helped to lift shares to 52-week highs. Randolph L. Marten, chairman and CEO, stated, "We are better positioned than ever for the remainder of 2014 and beyond based on the current freight environment and the continued improvements we are driving in freight network efficiencies within our diverse service infrastructure." He noted that even through the tough winter weather, Marten Transport was able to improve revenue per tractor by 3.9% on a year-over-year basis.

This suggests that as costs come down with improving weather and road conditions, Marten Transport should see profit margins and overall profitability go up. For just about any industry, during times of unusually high and temporary costs, the ability to maintain and grow revenues like Marten Transport was able to do is remarkable, and makes you wonder how much more improved the numbers may have been had the conditions cooperated. We shall find out in future quarters.

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