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Continental Airlines Posts Quarterly Loss

Continental Airlines on Thursday posted a first-quarter loss as record fuel costs continue to roil the industry.

The fourth-largest U.S. carrier reported a net loss of $80 million, or 81 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier profit of $22 million, or 21 cents a share.

Excluding special items, the loss was 86 cents a share. Analysts on average had expected a loss of 94 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue increased 12.3 percent to $3.6 billion, helped by fuel surcharges and international growth.

Rising costs and a weak U.S. economy helped prompt a merger deal between two of Continental's biggest rivals, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, and could spur a wave of further consolidation amid fears of falling travel demand.

Continental and UAL's United Airlines have reportedly been in merger talks for months.