Editor's note: A previous version of this article misnamed the company.

What happened

Shares of oil tanker operator Nordic American Tankers (NYSE:NAT) surged nearly 17% in early trading Wednesday before falling back to close the day up a still-respectable 9.1%. The reason: a positive earnings report.

After close of trading Tuesday, Nordic American Tankers reported earnings of $0.04 per share on sales of $53.6 million -- results well ahead of the breakeven earnings and $49.8 million in sales that Wall Street had predicted. 

Looking down on an oil tanker bow deck

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

In what it called "a busy quarter" (in a good way), Nordic American Tankers confirmed that Q1 produced its "best result for NAT since 2Q2016."

Time Charter Equivalent (TCE) rates for NAT's fleet of 23 Suezmax-size oil tankers surged 30% sequentially to $26,025 per day per ship, helping NAT to turn a profit in Q1 2019 -- versus losses booked in both Q4 2018 and Q1 2018 (both sequential and year-over-year improvements). Notably, this TCE rate is still below the long-term average for the industry over the past 25 years.

Now what

Nordic American Tankers did not issue guidance for what profit it expects to earn over the balance of this year, although management did note that because of "refinery adjustments that must be made to meet the new fuel regulations that come into full effect from 2020," NAT expects "positive" changes in tanker demand will lead to 2019 being a "better year than 2018."

That jives with what analysts are predicting, by the way. Although consensus estimates predict that NAT will lose money this year ($0.05 per share), even this modest loss would be a big improvement over the $0.52 per share in losses NAT booked in 2018.

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