Rail Week Ending 10 January 2015: Increased Rail Traffic to Begin the New Year

January 16th, 2015
in econ_news, syndication

Econintersect: Week 1 of 2015 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) improved according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. This was a good start to the new year.

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 -3.8% decelerating (normal for this holiday period) accelerating
13 week rolling average -2.4% decelerating (normal for this holiday period) accelerating
52 week rolling average 4.7% 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 Jan. 10, 2015. Total cumulative U.S. weekly rail traffic for the first full week of 2015 was 517,520 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.9 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads were at 276,573 up 7.5 percent compared with the same week in 2014 while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 240,947 containers and trailers, up 2.1 percent compared the same week in 2014.

Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2014, led by Coal, up 108,449 carloads or 4.2 percent; Nonmetallic Minerals, up 30,742 or 22 percent; Chemicals, up 30,425 carloads or 7 per cent; and Metallic Ores and Metals, up 23,699 or 17.6 percent. Of the two commodity groups that posted a decrease compared with the same week in 2014, Farm Products (excluding grain and food) was down 16,322 carloads or 1.7 percent.

Coal is over 1/3 of the total railcar count, and this week is 4.6% higher than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2014.  The middle row in 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 7.5% 2.1% 4.9%
Ignoring coal and grain 7.2%
Year Cumulative to Date 7.5% 2.1% 4.9%

[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart

/images/z rail1.png

From EIA.gov:

For the week ended January 10, 2015:

  • Estimated U.S. coal production totaled approximately 18.9 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 7.3% higher than last week's estimate and 4.6% higher than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2014
  • East of the Mississippi River coal production totaled 7.9 mmst
  • West of the Mississippi River coal production totaled 11.0 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 26.5 mmst, 3.2% higher than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2014

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