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(Reuters) - Union Pacific Corp (UNP.N) reported a bigger quarterly profit on Thursday as the railroad raised prices and saw demand in overall shipments grow, sending shares up more than 2 percent in premarket trading.
The largest publicly traded U.S. railroad network, Union Pacific earned $1.2 billion, or $2.55 a share, in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with $1 billion, or $2.19 a share, a year earlier.
Railroads are key indicators of the health of an economy because of the variety of goods they transport. Union Pacific Railroad connects 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country by rail.
Shares of the Omaha, Nebraska-based company were up 2 percent at $172.17 in premarket trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Like others in the industry, Union Pacific has been hit by a weakening demand for coal, but took advantage of a rise in demand for agricultural goods, autos and other industrial shipments.
The company's revenue from transporting agricultural goods surged 19 percent in the quarter, followed by automotives with growth of 17 percent. Only coal revenue fell, by one percent.
Overall revenue was $5.6 billion, compared with $5.25 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Rival Norfolk Southern Corp (NSC.N) reported a 24-percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday, beating analysts' expectations, as strong chemicals, construction materials and auto shipments offset a dip in coal volumes.
Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Chicago; Editing by Bernadette Baum