Shares of Delta Air Lines slid nearly 20% on Tuesday after the world's largest carrier forecast a 4% decline in revenue per available seat mile for 2009. As the only airline to issue an outlook on demand, Delta's news reverberated throughout the sector, and several other major carriers saw their prices drop 13% or more. However, Delta is forecasting profits for the year ahead, based on lower fuel costs, capacity cutbacks and "merger synergies." Analysts say they, too, are more focused on industry-wide performance moving forward, rather than fourth-quarter results, given worldwide economic conditions. As far as Delta's outlook on that front, President Ed Bastian said: "We expect the worldwide economy to be difficult throughout 2009; however, if fuel prices remain at current levels, we believe the benefit of lower fuel prices will more than offset the revenue decline."

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