Rail Week Ending 12 April 2014: Growing Strength A Signal of Improving Economy

April 17th, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 15 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 continuing to strengthen. One small detail this week is that if coal and grain is growth is ignored - the growth is only 2.5% year-over-year.

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 8.6% accelerating accelerating
13 week rolling average 4.0% accelerating accelerating
52 week rolling average 2.6% accelerating accelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported increased U.S. rail traffic for the week ending April 12, 2014 with 295,294 total U.S. carloads, up 7.2 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 264,382 units, up 9.3 percent compared with the same week last year. Total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 559,676 carloads and intermodal units, up 8.2 percent compared with the same week last year.

Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including grain with 20,760 carloads, up 21.7 percent, and coal with 115,403 carloads, up 11.2 percent. The commodities showing a decrease compared with the same week last year were metallic ores and metals with 22,409 carloads, down 3.9 percent, and forest products with 11,034 carloads, down 1.5 percent.

For the first 15 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,194,072 carloads, up 1.6 percent compared with the same point last year, and 3,728,465 intermodal units, up 4.8 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 15 weeks of 2014 was 7,922,537 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.1 percent from last year.

USA coal production is up 5.7% 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% 9.3% 8.2%
Ignoring coal and grain 2.5%
Year Cumulative to Date 1.6% 4.8% 3.1%


[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart


/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended April 12, 2014:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 18.9 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 1.0% lower than last week's estimate and 5.7% higher than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 8.7 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 10.3 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 275.7 mmst, 1.2% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013

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