posted on 12 May 2016
Week 18 of 2016 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) declined according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. Rolling averages continue moving deeper into contraction.
The deceleration in the rail rolling averages began one year ago, and now rail movements are being compared against weaker 2015 data - and it continues to decline. There were port labor issues one year ago which affected intermodal movements - which skew the results both positively and negatively (this week again negatively as it is being compared to the shipping surge at the end of the strike). HOWEVER, one can ignore the strike which only affects intermodal - and concentrate on carloads - the data is very soft. We are now at the very end of the strike impact.
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 (carloads and intermodal combined).
A summary of the data from the AAR:
Coal is over 1/3 of the total railcar count, and this week is 35.3% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2015. 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.
[click on graph below to enlarge]
Current Rail Chart:
For the week ended April 30, 2016
Coal production from EIA.gov
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