Rail Week Ending 13 December 2014: Growth Spurt Within a Strong Growth Cycle

December 18th, 2014
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 50 of 2014 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) improved according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. The rate of growth continues to be very strong in all of the rolling averages reported below.

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 5.3% accelerating accelerating
13 week rolling average 4.2% accelerating accelerating
52 week rolling average 4.5% accelerating accelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

Today, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported increased U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Dec. 13, 2014, with 312,271 total carloads, up 12.1 percent compared with the same week in 2013. Total U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 280,337 units, up 4.5 percent compared with the same week last year. Total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic was 592,608 carloads and intermodal units, up 8.4 percent compared with the same week last year.

All 10 of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2013, led by nonmetallic minerals with 36,165 carloads, up 28.8 percent; metallic ores and metals with 28,778 carloads, up 24.4 percent; petroleum and petroleum products with 17,074 carloads, up 23 percent; and, grain with 24,194 carloads, up 17.1 percent.

For the first 50 weeks of 2014, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 14,616,786 carloads, up 3.8 percent compared with the same point last year, and 13,042,623 intermodal units, up 5.2 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 50 weeks of 2014 was 27,659,409 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.4 percent from last year.

Coal is over 1/3 of the total railcar count, and this week is 9.6% higher than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2013. The middle line on 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 12.1% 4.5% 8.4%
Ignoring coal and grain 16.9%
Year Cumulative to Date 3.8% 5.2% 4.4%

[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart

/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended December 13, 2014:

  • Estimated U.S. coal production totaled approximately 19.8 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 1.0% higher than last week's estimate and 9.6% 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 11.8 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 944.6 mmst, 0.6% higher than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2013

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