Rail Week Ending 16 August 2014: Strong But Slowing Growth Cycle Continues

August 21st, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 33 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 which are continuing to show a strong growth cycle albeit the rate of growth is slowing:

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 4.4% accelerating decelerating
13 week rolling average 5.7% accelerating decelerating
52 week rolling average 4.3% accelerating accelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported increased U.S. rail traffic for the week ending August 16, 2014 with 304,276 total carloads, up 2.8 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 270,316 units, up 5.4 percent compared with the same week last year. Total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 574,592 carloads and intermodal units, up 4 percent compared with the same week last year.

Nine of 10 of the carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including petroleum and petroleum products with 15,653 carloads, up 19.5 percent; metallic ores and metals with 28,142 carloads, up 11.6 percent; nonmetallic minerals with 39,394 carloads, up 7.4 percent; and grain with 17,916 carloads, up 7.1 percent. The commodity that posted a decrease was coal with 118,954 carloads, down 3.3 percent.

For the first 33 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 9,526,136 carloads, up 3.7 percent compared with the same point last year, and 8,465,069 intermodal units, up 5.8 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 33 weeks of 2014 was 17,991,205 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.7 percent from last year.

USA coal production is down 3.1% 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 2.8% 5.4% 4.0%
Ignoring coal and grain 7.2%
Year Cumulative to Date 3.7% 5.8% 4.7%

[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart


/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended August 16, 2014:

  • U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.6 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 2.4% higher than last week's estimate and 3.1% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 8.1 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.5 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 615.5 mmst, 0.9% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013





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