Rail Week Ending 01 March 2014: Rail Again Recovers a Little

March 6th, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 8 of 2014 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) grew according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. The rolling averages are generally accelerating, but the overall feel of the data is soft for a period of economic expansion.


Follow up:

The weekly data is fairly noisy, and the best way to view it is to look at the rolling averages:

Percent current rolling average  is larger than the rolling average of one year ago Current rate of growth accelerating or decelerating Current rolling average accelerating or decelerating compared to the rolling average one year ago
4 week rolling average -0.1% accelerating accelerating
13 week rolling average 1.3% accelerating accelerating
52 week rolling average 1.9% accelerating decelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported mixed U.S. rail traffic for the month of February 2014, with carload volume decreasing and intermodal volume increasing compared with February 2013. Intermodal traffic in February totaled 993,807 containers and trailers, up 1.1 percent (10,729 units) compared with February 2013, which represents the 51st-consecutive year-over-year monthly increase for intermodal volume. U.S. carload originations totaled 1,100,858 in February 2014, down 1.1% (12,061 carloads) from February 2013.

Nine of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw year-over-year carload increases in February over the same month last year. Commodities with the biggest carload increases last month included grain, up 12.3 percent or 8,696 carloads, and grain mill products, up 10.1 percent or 3,645 carloads.

Commodity categories with carload declines last month included coal, down 3.5 percent or 15,571 carloads from February 2013, and primary metal products, down 7.2 percent or 3,092 carloads. Excluding coal and grain, carloads were down 5,186 carloads or 0.9 percent in February 2014 over the same month last year.

“It would be nice to be able to separate out the effects of the harsh winter on rail traffic, but we can’t do that. We can probably expect improvements in the rail numbers in the months ahead, assuming that the weather and the economy cooperate,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “In the meantime, crude oil has become a significant part of the railroad business. Railroads know how important it is to move crude oil safely, and they are committed to continually searching for ways to make this happen.”

AAR today also reported increased rail traffic for the week ending March 1, 2014. U.S. railroads originated 287,294 carloads last week, up 1.4 percent compared with the same week last year, while intermodal volume for the week totaled 257,710 units, up 3.4 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week was 545,004 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.3 percent compared with the same week last year.

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including: grain, with 19,746 carloads, up 14.3 percent, and nonmetallic minerals and products, with 31,793 carloads, up 11.5 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic were led by metallic ores and metals, with 23,863 carloads, down 5.2 percent.

For the first nine weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 2,446,042 carloads, down 0.3 percent from the same point last year, and 2,177,092 intermodal units, up 1.2 percent from last year. Total U.S. traffic for the first nine weeks of 2014 was 4,623,134 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.4 percent from last year.

USA coal production is down 1.5% same week year-over-year - and coal accounts for almost half of carloads.

Here is a look at the weekly data comparing it to the same week one year ago, backing out economically less intuitive coal and grain, and comparing growth year-to-date.

This Week
Carloads Intermodal Total
This week Year-over-Year 1.4% 3.4% 2.3%
Ignoring coal and grain 0.8%
Year Cumulative to Date -0.3% 1.2% 0.4%


[click on graph below to enlarge]


Current Rail Chart


/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended March 01, 2014:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.4 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 3.1% higher than last week's estimate and 1.5% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 8.4 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.0 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 161.2 mmst, 2.9% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013

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