September 3, 2014 / 5:15 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. airlines stocks fall after Delta trims margin outlook

Sept 3 (Reuters) - U.S. airlines stocks fell on Wednesday after Delta Air Lines trimmed its operating margin forecast and reported that international passenger traffic lagged slightly in August, heightening concerns that other U.S. carriers might encounter similar headwinds.

While Delta’s August performance was relatively robust, Delta shares were down 5.2 percent at $38.79 in midday trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. American Airlines Group Inc shares were down 3.3 percent at $39.16 on the Nasdaq, United Continental Holdings stock fell about 2.3 percent at $48.83.

“It’s still a very strong performance,” said CRT Capital Group analyst Michael Derchin. “The market tends to overreact.”

At a conference organized by Cowen and Co on Wednesday, Delta said it expected operating margins of 15 percent to 16 percent in the third quarter, down from guidance of 15 percent to 17 percent it gave in July.

Analysts said the change likely stemmed from Delta’s notching down its passenger unit revenue forecast to 2 percent to 3 percent growth in the third quarter from 2 percent to 4 percent growth forecast earlier.

Separately, the Atlanta-based airline said it filled only 88.7 percent of its seats on transatlantic flights this August, compared with 91.5 percent last year. Its U.S. load factor rose, however, to 87.2 percent from 85.3 percent a year earlier.

Other U.S. carriers have yet to announce August traffic, and concern about empty seats on flights across the Atlantic and to Latin America may be putting pressure on their performance, said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Joseph DeNardi.

“[There is] excess capacity in the international market,” he said.

Some investors also may be apprehensive about the impact that the Ebola virus and Middle East tension could have on air travel, Derchin said. (Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin; Editing by Alwyn Scott and Gunna Dickson)

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