Rail Week Ending 20 September 2014: Traffic Strengthens

September 25th, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 38 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 continues to demonstrate an improving economy - and the rate of growth compared to the rolling averages one year ago strengthened.

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 3.8% accelerating accelerating
13 week rolling average 4.8% accelerating accelerating
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 Sept. 20, 2014 with 302,178 total carloads, up 5 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 279,777 units, up 6.4 percent compared with the same week last year. Total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 581,955 carloads and intermodal units, up 5.7 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 16,208 carloads, up 26.8 percent; grain with 19,319 carloads, up 23.2 percent; and nonmetallic minerals with 40,659 carloads, up 10.8 percent. The week’s intermodal volume, 279,777 units, was a record high for U.S. railroads, breaking the previous record set the week before.

For the first 38 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,020,960 carloads, up 3.5 percent compared with the same point last year, and 9,802,259 intermodal units, up 5.7 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 38 weeks of 2014 was 20,823,219 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.5 percent from last year.

Coal is over 1/3 of the total railcar count, and this week is 3.0% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013. The table below removes coal and grain from the changes in the railcar counts as neither of these commodities is economically intuitive.

This Week
Carloads Intermodal Total
This week Year-over-Year 5.0% 6.4% 5.7%
Ignoring coal and grain 6.9%
Year Cumulative to Date 3.5% 5.7% 4.5%

[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart

/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended September 20, 2014:

  • Estimated U.S. coal production totaled approximately 18.8 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 1.8% lower than last week's estimate and 0.2% higher 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 10.8 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 711.3 mmst, 1.2% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013

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