Meanwhile, the international segment produced its highest-ever operating profit for the summer quarter. Growth was driven by shipments of new technology products out of Asia. Apple Inc.'s iPhone 5 was introduced last month.
Because it handles so many consumer and business shipments worldwide, UPS results sometimes foreshadow broader economic trends.
UPS said 40 percent of total shipments are from businesses to consumers, compared with about a third from a few years ago. It expects these shipments, typically from large catalog or internet retailers, to grow to half of all packages during the holiday season.
UPS said there is some uncertainty about how strong the holiday shopping season will be, but it's growing more certain of its ability to increase earnings in a still-weak global economy.
UPS expects consumers will continue to drive its results as online shopping increases. UPS and its smaller rival FedEx Corp. can benefit twice when consumers shop online: They ship the gift to the receiver, and they also ship the unwanted presents that are later returned.
Online sales are expected to grow at four times the pace of traditional retail sales this year.
This trend is helping UPS' earnings despite weakness in trade between businesses. Business-to-business shipments are typically between a manufacturer and a retailer, and are closely tied to industrial production. Manufacturing output in the third quarter fell for the first time since the spring of 2009.
Consumers spending, meanwhile, picked up. Retail sales gains in August and September were the strongest in two years.
UPS shares rose $2.17, or 3 percent, to close at $73.73 Tuesday after climbing as high as $74.14 earlier in the session.