The transportation sector, like the financial sector, is one of the key market sectors that both affects the whole economy and reflects the performance of the economy as a whole. Transportation is a far-ranging industry that moves both goods and people, encompassing everything from local subway systems to trucking, airlines and international shipping. It also includes packaging, storage, warehousing and transport logistics. Altogether, the transportation sector accounts for approximately 3% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).

The increasingly global economy has led to a general overall increase in the distance between the production points for goods and the consumption points for those goods, and the transportation industry is what provides the vital connection. Timely and prompt delivery commands an increasing premium, driven by factors such as the needs of businesses to rapidly transfer documents and the increasing utilization of just in time (JIT) inventory systems. When economies are thriving, the transportation industry is booming. Conversely, in times of economic stagnation or recession, the industry contracts.

Key players within the transportation sector include a number of well-known Fortune 500 firms and some of the largest companies in various countries across the globe.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway

BNSF Railway is one of the most important railroad companies in the United States. It is important to the global transportation industry as well, since it ships many of the goods that enter the United States through California, which are often imported from China and other Asia-Pacific countries. BNSF Railway transports freight, including coal, petroleum, consumer goods and many agricultural products, through a 30,000-mile network that covers approximately the westernmost two-thirds of the United States. It is the only railroad directly connecting the West Coast and the major Southern metropolitan center of Atlanta, Georgia. It handles one million more intermodal freight units annually than any other Class I rail company.

Although its major competitor, the Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE: UNP), is larger, BNSF Railway's operational efficiency and command of the intermodal transport market impressed famed investor Warren Buffett sufficiently to move Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) to acquire the company in 2009, its largest acquisition to date, proving to be another successful investment choice for Buffett. For 2015, BNSF Railway reported net income of $4.2 billion, up from 2014's net income of $3.9 billion, and it managed this roughly 6% increase during a year when railroads were overall negatively affected by a decline in both manufacturing and coal shipments.

American Airlines

American Airlines Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAL) is the world's largest airline, as measured by both fleet size and revenue, and the world's second-largest airline as measured by its total number of domestic and international destinations. American provides its regional service through its American Eagle subsidiary. As of January 2016, American Airlines provided service to a total of 350 destinations worldwide and flew to approximately 50 countries. It has nearly 1,000 mainline Airbus and Boeing aircraft, in addition to nearly 600 regional aircraft. American has absorbed quite a number of other airlines through mergers and acquisitions (M&As) during its 90-year history, including Trans World Airlines in 2001 and US Airways in 2015.

American's market capitalization value is $25 billion. As of March 2016, the company's three-year average revenue growth was 18.2%, more than double the industry average of 8.8%. Its 18.6% net margin also outperforms an industry average of 12.2%. American Airlines stock has traded between $36 and $46 a share since mid-2015. It may be a bargain at its late March 2016 price of $41.42 a share, with analyst 2016 price targets ranging from $43 a share to $62 a share, and with a median target of $52. Raymond James (NYSE: RJF) , Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS) and UBS (NYSE: UBS) have all upgraded their forecasts for American's stock in the first quarter of the year.

Evergreen Marine

Evergreen Marine Corporation Ltd. (TWSE: 2603.TW), founded in 1968 and headquartered in Taiwan, is the fourth-largest marine transportation and container manufacturing and distribution company in the world. Evergreen has a fleet of approximately 190 container ships that call on nearly 250 ports in more than 75 countries, from Asia to Europe and the Americas. Evergreen also provides port services, including investing in and leasing operating equipment at port terminals. It owns subsidiary shipping companies in Italy and the United Kingdom. The company's stock has traded with high volatility, primarily in a range between approximately $12 a share and $28 a share, since 2002. As of late March 2016, the stock, like many Asia-Pacific region equities, was down sharply at -9.81% year-to-date (YTD), trading at $11.95, near the low of its 52-week range from $11.10-$24.16. Analyst 2016 price targets range from $12.90 to $27.60, with a median price target of $17.80.

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