Rail Week Ending 24 November 2012: Coal Is A Growing Headwind for Rail

November 30th, 2012
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 47 of 2012 ending 24 November shows same week total rail traffic was below 2011 levels according to data released by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

  • The carload portion of rail traffic showed same week traffic contracted 4.6% (versus last week's -4.3%).
  • Excluding coal and grain (which are not an economic indicator), rail carloads expanded at 5.4% (last week +3.1%) same week year-over-year.
  • Intermodal same week traffic expanded 1.9% (versus last week's +2.4%)
  • Total same week traffic rail traffic contracted 3.1% (versus last week's -3.0%)

USA coal production is down 9.7% same week year-over-year (see below), and the cumulative effect on rail carloads continues to drag traffic down.

Follow up:

Twelve of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, with petroleum products, up 63.6 percent; farm products excluding grain, up 24.8 percent, and lumber and wood products, up 17.1 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included metallic ores, down 24.7 percent; grain, down 16.7 percent, and coal, down 12.2 percent.

The majority of the reason for rail year-to-date contraction is coal and grain movements - which would only effect the profitability of railroads, and not an economic indicator as coal is an alternative fuel to oil and natural gas.


This Week
Carloads Intermodal Total
This week Year-over-Year -4.6% 1.9% -3.6%
This week without coal and grain
Year Cumulative to Date -3.1% 3.4% -2.3%


Current Rail Chart


Total (cumulative) year-to-date traffic is contracting year-over-year.

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended November 24, 2012:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.2 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 4.1 percent lower than last week's estimate and 9.7 percent lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2011
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 7.7 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.5 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 919.9 mmst, 6.3 percent lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2011
  • An evaluation of the Weekly Coal Production Report has been done to compare 2011 estimates with 2011 actual Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) production. It is available under "Coal Production Estimates Evaluation".
  • Steven Hansen

    Source: AAR

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