Fourth-quarter earnings for shipping giant UPS fell short of analysts' expectations as holiday consumer spending was weaker than anticipated, the company reported Thursday.
United Parcel Service Inc. reported a net loss of $1.75 million for the fourth quarter of last year -- $1.83 per share -- after a $3-billion noncash charge for pension obligations. In the year-earlier period, earnings were 74 cents per share, or $725 million.
"2012 presented its challenges, most notably weak global trade," UPS Chief Executive Scott Davis said in a statement.
Excluding one-time, noncash items, UPS profits amounted to $1.32 per share. Analysts had estimated profits would be $1.38.
The company's revenue rose 2.9% to $14.57 billion in 2012, up from $14.17 billion the year before.
The end of last year was marked by a standoff in Congress over tax increases and spending cuts, which analysts say damaged the economy. The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that in the last three months of the year, total economic output shrank at an annual rate of 0.1%, the first contraction since the recession ended in mid-2009.
UPS, which had lowered its economic forecast in the middle of last year due to slowing global trade, also said Hurricane Sandy had affected earnings. The storm, which caused widespread damage across the Eastern seaboard, caused earnings to fall by 5 cents per share, the company said.
Earlier this month, the company dropped its $7-billion bid for a Dutch delivery firm, TNT Express, after European regulators cited antitrust issues.
UPS shares fell $1.55 to $79.68 per share, a drop of 1.9%, after the earnings release.
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