Rail Week Ending 28 June 2014: June Was a Very Good Month

July 4th, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 26 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 continues to be good, but this week is continuing the trend of softer growth.

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 5.1% unchanged decelerating
13 week rolling average 6.6% unchanged decelerating
52 week rolling average 3.7% accelerating accelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported increased U.S. rail traffic for June 2014, with both carload and intermodal volume increasing compared with June 2013. U.S. Class I railroads originated 1,177,655 carloads in June 2014, up 3.6 percent (41,310 carloads) over June 2013. Year-over-year monthly carload growth averaged 4.9 percent from March 2014 through June 2014, the highest average for any four-month period since December 2010 through March 2011. Total carloads averaged 294,414 in June, the highest weekly average for June since 2008.

Intermodal traffic in June totaled 1,077,385 containers and trailers, up 6.7 percent (67,967 units) over June 2013. The weekly average in June was 269,346 units, the highest for any month in history. In the second quarter of 2014, intermodal traffic grew 8 percent (253,921 units). The peak for intermodal traffic is generally in the fall, so look for more records to be set in the months ahead. Through the first six months of 2014, containers accounted for 88.4 percent of intermodal volume, a higher percentage than ever before.

Seventeen of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw year-over-year carload increases in June, the same as May. Commodities with the biggest carload increases in June 2014 over June 2013 included crushed stone, sand and gravel, up 12,217 carloads, or 14.1 percent; grain, up 10,394 carloads, or 16.5 percent; petroleum and petroleum products, up 4,736 carloads, or 8.6 percent; motor vehicles and parts, up 4,214 carloads, or 6.2 percent; and, primary metal products, up 2,753 carloads, or 6.6 percent.

“All in all, June was another good month for rail traffic,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “The fact that most categories of rail traffic were up in June, and that intermodal set a new volume record, supports the view that the economy is rebounding at a decent pace. Railroads will continue to do their part in ensuring this continues.”

AAR today also reported increased rail traffic for the week ending June 28, 2014. U.S. railroads originated 298,457 carloads last week, up 6.3 percent compared with the same week last year, while intermodal volume for the week totaled 264,766 units, up 6 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week was 563,223 carloads and intermodal units, up 6.2 percent compared with the same week last year.

All 10 of the 10 carload commodity groups tracked on a weekly basis posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including petroleum and petroleum products, with 15,894 carloads, up 18.5 percent; grain, with 18,003 carloads, up 12.9 percent; and, nonmetallic minerals and products, with 38,684 carloads, up 10.7 percent.

For the first 26 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 7,448,294 carloads, up 3.2 percent from the same point last year, and 6,642,440 intermodal units, up 5.9 percent from last year. Total U.S. traffic for the first 26 weeks of 2014 was 14,090,734 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.5 percent from last year.

USA coal production is up 3.8% 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 6.3% 6.0% 6.2%
Ignoring coal and grain 7.4%
Year Cumulative to Date 3.2% 5.9% 4.5%


[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart


/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended June 28, 2014:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.4 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 4.4% higher than last week's estimate and 3.8% higher than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 8.3 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.0 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 482.5 mmst, 0.5% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013

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