FedEx expects to ship 17M packages on busiest day

NEW YORK (AP) ? FedEx expects to handle 9 percent more packages on its busiest day of the year ? now projected for Dec. 12.

The world’s second-largest package delivery company thinks it could move 17 million packages that day, nearly double what it normally ships, as online holiday shopping continues to rise and the company benefits from a partnership with the U.S. Postal Service.

Investors cheered the optimistic forecast, a month after FedEx Corp. said shoppers were pulling back on spending. FedEx shares rose more than 3 percent to $82.20 in late morning trading.

The number of shipments handled on its busiest day has climbed steadily through the recession as holiday shoppers skip stores and have gifts shipped after buying them online. But the growth is also due in large part to its SmartPost service with the post office. SmartPost parcels, mostly those from online and catalog retailers, move through FedEx’s network but are delivered to homes by a postal worker.

Holiday sales are expected to grow 2.8 percent in November and December to $465.6 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, slightly higher than the average growth rate over the last decade. About 46.7 percent of shoppers are expected to buy online, compared with 43.9 percent last year.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, FedEx Corp. expects more than 260 million shipments. That’s a 12 percent increase from 2010.

The Memphis, Tenn. company plans to add about 20,000 seasonal workers to handle the surge, up from 17,000 last year.

FedEx’s larger rival, Atlanta-based United Parcel Service Inc., hasn’t yet released peak day predictions. UPS is set to release third-quarter financial results Tuesday.

Last month, FedEx said that while it’s seeing signs that the economy is slowing down, it’s not yet predicting a recession. Still, a pullback in consumer spending prompted the company to lower its earnings expectations for the fiscal year that ends in May.