Week Ending 10March2012: Rail Is Sending Mixed Economic Signals

March 15th, 2012
in econ_news

Econintersect: Week 10 of 2012 ending 10 March 2012 shows rail traffic continued to contract over 2011 levels according to data released by the American Association of Railroads (AAR).

Eleven of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, with petroleum products, up 39.9 percent; motor vehicles and equipment, up 14.8 percent, and metallic ores, up 11.5 percent. The groups showing a significant decrease in weekly traffic included coal, down 13.1 percent, and coke, down 10.3 percent.

The pattern in the data is the same as it has been for several weeks. The majority of the reason for the contraction is coal movements - which would only effect the profitability of railroads, and not really an economic indicator as coal is an alternative fuel.  However, there are now drops in scrap iron, coke, and chemical movements which usually expand during periods of economic expansion.  Possibly this drop was movements for export, but exports too have economic implications.

Follow up:

Week 9 2012 Carloads Intermodal Total
This week Year-over-Year -4.8% 4.2% -3.9%
This week without coal
Year Cumulative to Date -1.4% 2.3% -0.5%



Note that the total year-to-date traffic are now contracting year-over-year.

Steven Hansen

Source: AAR

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