At UPS, shipping volumes slump along with the global economy

Some companies' results say as much about the health of the world economy as they do about the businesses themselves. With huge industrial, financial and energy operations, General Electric (GE) is one. As the biggest maker of construction and mining equipment, Caterpillar (CAT) is another. And shipping giant United Parcel Service (UPS), which this morning said that first quarter profit fell more than analysts expected, is another.

UPS said its U.S. shipping volume fell 4.3 percent in the first three months of this year, suggesting that the economy hasn't yet begun to revive. In the first quarter, the company booked a profit of $517 million, or 52 cents a share, excluding one-time items, on revenue of $10.9 billion. That's a 43 percent decline from a year ago, when the company earned $906 million.