Rail Week Ending 29 March 2014:Strengthening Cycle Continues

April 3rd, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 13 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 strengthening.


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 6.4% accelerating accelerating
13 week rolling average 2.3% accelerating accelerating
52 week rolling average 2.3% accelerating accelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported increased U.S. rail traffic for March 2014, with both carload and intermodal volume increasing compared with March 2013. Intermodal traffic in March totaled 1,025,907 containers and trailers, up 9.9 percent (92,661 units) compared with March 2013, and the 52nd-consecutive year-over-year monthly increase for intermodal volume. The weekly average of 256,477 intermodal units on U.S. railroads in March 2014 was easily the highest for any March in history and was the fourth highest for any month in history. Meanwhile, U.S. carload originations totaled 1,156,697 in March 2014, up 3.5 percent (38,628 carloads) over March 2013.

Eleven of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw year-over-year carload increases in March. Commodities with the biggest carload increases included grain, up 14,272 carloads or 21.2 percent; coal, up 9,649 carloads or 2.2 percent; crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 4,454 carloads or 5.6 percent; and petroleum and petroleum products, up 4,524 carloads or 8.2 percent.

Commodity categories with carload declines last month included iron and steel scrap, down 2,602 carloads or 13.7 percent; metallic ores, down 1,345 carloads or 7.1 percent; and steel and other primary metal products, down 874 carloads or 2.1 percent.

Excluding coal and grain, carloads were up 14,707 carloads, or 2.9 percent, in March 2014 over the same month last year.

“U.S. rail traffic rebounded strongly in March 2014 following a sub-par February. Grain led the way, as railroads are working hard to move the biggest grain harvest in history,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “In addition, coal carloads rose in March, something that’s happened just one other time in the past two years. March also demonstrated that we have every reason to be optimistic that 2014 will break 2013’s intermodal volume record.”

AAR today also reported increased rail traffic for the week ending March 29, 2014. U.S. railroads originated 301,317 carloads last week, up 7.2 percent compared with the same week last year, while intermodal volume for the week totaled 265,188 units, up 13.5 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week was 566,505 carloads and intermodal units, up 10 percent compared with the same week last year.

Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including grain, with 22,070 carloads, up 44.2 percent; nonmetallic minerals and products, with 35,240 carloads, up 11.2 percent; and, motor vehicles and parts, with 18,727 carloads, up 10.6 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic were led by metallic ores and metals, with 24,195 carloads, down 13.7 percent.

For the first 13 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,602,739 carloads, up 0.9 percent from the same point last year, and 3,202,999 intermodal units, up 3.8 percent from last year. Total U.S. traffic for the first 13 weeks of 2014 was 6,805,738 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.3 percent from last year.

USA coal production is up 4.7% 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 7.2% 13.5% 0.9%
Ignoring coal and grain 2.9%
Year Cumulative to Date 0.9% 3.8% 2.3%


[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart


/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended March 29, 2014:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.9 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 5.4% higher than last week's estimate and 4.7% higher than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 8.5 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.4 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 237.7 mmst, 1.9% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013

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