Rail Week Ending 24 May 2014: Growth Strength Continues

May 29th, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 21 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. Rail growth is impressive and may be indicating a spurt in economic growth is coming.

Follow up:

This analysis is looking for clues in the rail data to show the direction of economic activity - and is not necessarily looking for clues of profitability of the railroads. 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 quantities accelerating or decelerating Current rolling average accelerating or decelerating compared to the rolling average one year ago
4 week rolling average 6.6% accelerating decelerating
13 week rolling average 6.6% accelerating accelerating
52 week rolling average 3.2% 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 May 24, 2014 with 300,936 total carloads, up 6.8 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 269,444 units, up 8.6 percent compared with the same week last year. Total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 570,380 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.6 percent compared with the same week last year.

Nine of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including grain with 20,409 carloads, up 24.4 percent; nonmetallic minerals and products with 39,064 carloads, up 12.7 percent and, metallic ores and metals with 29,240 carloads, up 10.2 percent.

For the first 21 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 5,981,006 carloads, up 2.9 percent compared with the same point last year, and 5,322,963 intermodal units, up 5.6 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 21 weeks of 2014 was 11,303,969 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.2 percent from last year.

USA coal production is down 0.1% same week year-over-year - and coal accounts for well over 1/3rd 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 6.8% 8.6% 7.6%
Ignoring coal and grain 6.5%
Year Cumulative to Date 2.9% 5.6% 4.2%


[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart


/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended May 24, 2014:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 18.6 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 0.3% higher than last week's estimate and 0.1% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 8.2 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 10.5 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 388.7 mmst, 0.3% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013

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