Ahead of the Bell: JetBlue

NEW YORK -- An analyst on Thursday cut his earnings estimates for JetBlue Airways Corp. because the price of fuel hasn't dropped as much as he expected after Labor Day.

Sterne Agee analyst Jeffrey Kauffman cut his profit forecast for the New York airline's third quarter to 16 cents per share from a previous expectation of 22 cents per share. But he's still one of the most bullish analysts on Wall Street. On average, analysts polled by FactSet expect a profit of 14 cents per share.

He said that's due to a moderate slowdown in passenger revenue, but mostly because fuel hasn't fallen as much as expected. Benchmark crude has lost about 9 percent since Labor Day, the unofficial end of the peak summer travel season.

Kauffman has cut earnings estimates on other airlines for the same reasons, including the world's two largest: United Continental Holdings Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc.

On Thursday, he cut his fourth-quarter estimate for JetBlue by a penny, to 13 cents per share, and reduced his expectations for next year by 10 cents to 66 cents per share. Wall Street expects 15 cents per share and 62 cents per share for those periods.

The analyst's "Neutral" rating and $8 price target on the shares remain. JetBlue closed at $5.13 on Wednesday.