United Parcel Service Inc said its first quarter earnings per share would be much higher than it had expected and raised its outlook for the year, sending its shares up 4 percent in after-hours trading.

The world's biggest package delivery firm reported on Wednesday that its adjusted first-quarter earnings were 71 cents per share, compared with an adjusted 52 cents per share a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 57 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 7 percent, driven by significant growth in international volume.

The results reflect an improving global economy that is strongest in Asia and Latin America, said Edward Jones analyst Dan Ortwerth.

UPS has spent decades building up the business globally to take advantage of this, and here it is, Ortwerth said.

The company said it could not give a total dollar figure for its earnings at this point.

Atlanta-based UPS raised its 2010 outlook to a range of $3.05 to $3.30 per share, up from February's forecast of $2.70 to $3.05 per share.

The outlook's midpoint of $3.18 is well above Wall Street's view of $2.95 per share for 2010.

Shares of UPS rose 4.2 percent to $68.20 in extended trading from their $65.45 close Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Shares of UPS rival FedEx Corp were up 1.9 percent in after-hours trade.

Transport shares in general have risen this week as companies have posted profit increases amid positive executive commentary.

On Tuesday, railroad operator CSX Corp reported a 22 percent rise in profit, sending shares up as much as 4 percent on Wednesday, and J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc posted better-than-expected results on Wednesday due to improvement at its intermodal segment. Its shares were up 1.8 percent after-hours.

(Reporting by Helen Chernikoff; Editing by Tim Dobbyn, Phil Berlowitz)