Continental Airlines posted a fourth-quarter profit on Thursday amid signs that demand for travel, especially among business travelers, was finally improving after a sluggish year.

The world's fifth-largest airline reported net income of $85 million, or 60 cents per share, compared with a year-earlier net loss of $269 million, or $2.35 per share.

Excluding one-time items, earnings were 3 cents per share. Revenue fell 8.3 percent to $3.2 billion.

The U.S. airline industry has been hammered over the past two years by the surge in oil prices in 2008 and a severe recession in 2009. But over the past few months, Continental and other carriers have seen travel demand gather strength, especially from lucrative business travelers.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)