Rail Week Ending 02 August 2014: Best July in History

August 7th, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 31 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 this week was continues to demonstrate an improving economy.

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% accelerating decelerating
13 week rolling average 6.0% accelerating decelerating
52 week rolling average 4.2% accelerating accelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported increased U.S. rail traffic for July 2014, with both carload and intermodal volume increasing compared with July 2013. U.S. Class I railroads originated 1,471,811 carloads in July 2014, up 6.3 percent (86,792 carloads) over July 2013. Total carloads averaged 294,362 per week in July, the highest weekly average for July since 2008.

Intermodal traffic in July totaled 1,286,160 containers and trailers, up 5.5 percent (67,524 units) over July 2013. The weekly average in July was 257,232 units, the highest for any July in history. Fifteen of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw year-over-year carload increases in July. Commodities with the biggest carload increases in July 2014 over July 2013 were led by motor vehicles and parts, up 21,992 carloads, or 35.9 percent. Carloads of crushed stone, gravel, and sand were up 16,690, or 15.9 percent, their third straight month of double-digit year-over-year growth. Carloads of grain rose 14,968 carloads, or 18.7 percent. July marked the ninth straight month of double-digit gains in U.S. grain carloads, something that hasn’t happened since 1995.

Commodity carloads that decreased in July 2014 over July 2013 were led by coal, down 9,464 carloads, or 1.7 percent.

Excluding coal, U.S. rail carloads were up 96,256 carloads, or 11.7 percent, in July 2014 over July 2013, the largest year-over-year percentage gain since June 2010. Excluding coal and grain, carloads in July were up 81,288 carloads, or 11 percent, their largest year-over-year percentage gain since December 2011.

“The economy has had several so-called “false dawns” over the past few years, but based on current rail traffic levels, there’s reason to be optimistic that this time the economy might start growing like it should,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.

AAR today also reported increased rail traffic for the week ending August 2, 2014. U.S. railroads originated 304,229 carloads last week, up 5.6 percent compared with the same week last year, while intermodal volume for the week totaled 270,323 units, up 6 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. rail traffic for the week was 574,552 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.8 percent compared with the same week last year.

Nine 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 15,997 carloads, up 24.3 percent; grain, with 19,398 carloads, up 22.1 percent; and, motor vehicles and parts, with 17,765 carloads, up 14.6 percent.

For the first 31 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 8,920,105 carloads, up 3.7 percent from the same point last year, and 7,928,600 intermodal units, up 5.9 percent from last year. Total U.S. traffic for the first 31 weeks of 2014 was 16,848,705 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.7 percent from last year.

USA coal production is down 0.3% 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 5.6% 6.0% 5.8%
Ignoring coal and grain 8.1%
Year Cumulative to Date 3.7% 5.9% 4.7%


[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart


/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended August 2, 2014:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.5 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 0.5% higher than last week's estimate and 0.3% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 8.0 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.5 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 576.8 mmst, 0.8% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013

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