Essential reporting in volatile times.

Not a Subscriber yet? Click here to take advantage of All access digital limited time offer $13.95 per month EZ Pay.

Interested in Donating? Click #ISupportLocal for more information on supporting local journalism.

Mid-July is when companies whose stock is traded on public exchanges begin releasing their quarterly earnings statements. The next four weeks should give us an idea of what the novel coronavirus lockdown has done to some of the nation’s biggest companies and largest employers.

CSX Corp. usually is among the first to release its second-quarter earnings, and what it released Wednesday afternoon showed the impact the virus has had on the national economy.

“This was the most disruptive quarter I have experienced in my career, with both the fastest decline in volumes followed by one of the most rapid increase in volumes in the company’s history,” James M. Foote, president and CEO of CSX, told investment analysts after the earnings report was released.

The company had just announced second quarter net earnings of $499 million versus $870 million in the same quarter last year.

Kevin Boone, executive vice president and chief financial officer, said, “The second quarter of 2020 represented the most significant revenue drop in the company’s history.”

Total revenue was $2.255 billion in the quarter, down from $3.061 billion the year before. Every market segment — coal, intermodal, chemicals, automotive, forest products, agriculture and others — showed declines in both traffic volume and revenue.

Coal revenue was down 44%, continuing a trend that has gone on for a decade or more. The reasons for the coal decline were the usual ones: lower shipments of utility coal because of competition from natural gas and reduced demand for electricity, and less coal being sent into export markets as demand there softened.

The business decline began in the first quarter, extended into the second, but it began bouncing back late, Foote said. During the slowdown, the company found operating efficiencies it had overlooked before.

“When volumes began to recover late in the quarter, we started recalling employees and added train starts to meet demand, but we are confident that many of the changes we made during this period are durable and make CSX a stronger company,” Foote said.

Another industry that had to weather a bad quarter was banking. Thursday morning, City Holding Co., the parent company of City National Bank, reported net earnings of $18.25 million in the second quarter compared with $22.75 million a year ago.

As of June 30, City Holding had granted deferrals on about $430 million of commercial loans, company CEO Charles R. “Skip” Hageboeck said in the earnings release. That was up from about $380 million as of April 24. As of June 20, the company had granted deferrals on about $125 million of mortgage loans, up from about $80 million on April 24.

“At June 30, 2020, approximately $260 million of the commercial loan deferments were for hotel and lodging related loans,” Hageboeck said in the release. “We know that our hotel and lodging loan customers continue to suffer low demand as a result of reduced business and personal travel. However, we are encouraged by reports from certain hotel and lodging loan customers that, although still depressed compared to pre-pandemic periods, occupancy rates have improved during the past 30-45 days.”

These are the first of many such earnings reports that will be coming out in the next four weeks. They will give us an indication of what the coronavirus response has done to the economy and how it is bouncing back.

Jim Ross is development and opinion editor of The Herald-Dispatch. He is a former business reporter who covered transportation, banking, energy and other industries. His email is

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.