Rail Week Ending 25 October 2014: Strong Week Inside a General Growth Cycle

October 31st, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 43 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 accelerated.

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 generally are in a general growth cycle.

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 4.6% accelerating accelerating
13 week rolling average 4.0% accelerating accelerating
52 week rolling average 4.5% 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 Oct. 25, 2014 with 307,348 total carloads, up 3.5 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 278,767 units, up 6.7 percent compared with the same week last year. The week was the third highest intermodal week in history for U.S. railroads. Total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 586,115 carloads and intermodal units, up 5 percent compared with the same week last year.

Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, including petroleum and petroleum products with 16,953 carloads, up 20 percent, and nonmetallic minerals with 39,312 carloads, up 8.9 percent. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2013 were led by grain with 22,361 carloads, down 10.5 percent, though grain remains up by 15.1 percent year to date.

For the first 43 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,525,351 carloads, up 3.6 percent compared with the same point last year, and 11,179,260 intermodal units, up 5.5 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 43 weeks of 2014 was 23,704,611 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 5.0% higher 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 3.5% 6.7% 5.0%
Ignoring coal and grain 5.5%
Year Cumulative to Date 3.6% 6.5% 4.5%

[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart

/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended October 25, 2014:

  • Estimated U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.3 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 3.2% higher than last week's estimate and 5.0% higher than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013
  • Coal production east of the Mississippi River totaled 7.8 mmst
  • Coal production west of the Mississippi River totaled 11.5 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 810.9 mmst, less than 0.05% higher than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013

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