FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 13 October 2016

Rail Week Ending 08 October 2016: Short Term Rolling Averages Mixed

Week 40 of 2016 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) contracted according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. The weekly data was worse compared to last week.

Analyst Opinion of the Rail Data

We review this data set to understand the economy. If coal and grain are removed from the analysis, rail has recently been declining around 5% - but this week was -6.5%. Under normal circumstances one should consider this recessionary as trucking tonnages are down also. This also correlates to the contraction in manufacturing and the wholesale sectors - so rail is not an outlier.

It does appear that the downward slide in the one year rolling averages will pause shortly as the rate of increase in the rate of decline is continuing to be smaller. But this movement is like watching snails race. Based on the current trends - rail year-over-year rate of contraction should start improving by year end.

Still I am grappling with what this contraction actually means as the USA economy is not being pulled into a recession.

The contraction in rail counts began over one year ago, and now rail movements are being compared against weaker 2015 data - and this is the cause periodic acceleration in the short term rolling averages. Still, rail is weak to very week compared to previous years.

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).

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 -5.0 % accelerating decelerating
13 week rolling average -5.3 % accelerating accelerating
52 week rolling average -7.3 % decelerating decelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending October 8, 2016.

For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 521,789 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.1 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending October 8 were 264,165 carloads, down 5.9 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 257,624 containers and trailers, down 6.4 percent compared to 2015.

Two of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They were grain, up 8.2 percent to 26,845 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 6.2 percent to 18,946 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 29.8 percent to 9,587 carloads; nonmetallic minerals, down 9.5 percent to 35,305 carloads; and coal, down 8.3 percent to 90,195 carloads.

For the first 40 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 10,001,381 carloads, down 10.4 percent from the same point last year; and 10,341,236 intermodal units, down 3.3 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 40 weeks of 2016 was 20,342,617 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 6.9 percent compared to last year.

Coal is over 1/3 of the total railcar count, and this week the EIA says coal production is 6.7 % 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.

This Week Carloads Intermodal Total
This week Year-over-Year -5.9 % -6.4 % -6.1 %
Ignoring coal and grain -6.5 %
Year Cumulative to Date -10.4 % -3.3 % -6.9 %

[click on graph below to enlarge]

Current Rail Chart:

z rail1.png

For the week ended October 1, 2016

  • Estimated U.S. coal production totaled approximately 16.7 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 6.5% higher than last week's estimate and 6.7% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2015
  • East of the Mississippi River coal production totaled 6.3 mmst
  • West of the Mississippi River coal production totaled 10.5 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 540.5 mmst, 21.9% lower than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2015

Coal production from

Steven Hansen

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Permanent link to most recent post on this topic

Click here for Historical Releases Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Economic Releases


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Taking a Wrench to Healthcare
Rising Tide Does Not Lift All Ships
News Blog
New Findings: Anxiety Is Linked To Death From Cancer In Men
Nearly 1 In 6 European Adults Is Considered Obese
Acupuncture Is Useless
September 2016 CFNAI Super Index Moving Average Declines
Consequences Of Rising Income Inequality
America's Most Competitive Renters: Why Many Are Choosing To Rent
Historical Echoes: The Bank Teller Action Figure, Or It's All In The Packaging
Infographic Of The Day: The Oil Market Is Bigger Than All Metal Markets Combined
U.S. 2016 Election Divides Advanced And Emerging Economies
Which Countries Read The Most
The World's Most Expensive Retail Locations
How To Help Energy Demand Match Renewable Supply
Music Subscriptions Revive Revenue
Investing Blog
What ATT Gets For $85 Billion
FinTech Is Taking A Bite Out Of Banks
Opinion Blog
The Beer Goggles Stock Market
US 2016 Election: Will US-China Relations Change
Precious Metals Blog
Preparing For Post-Election Social Unrest
Live Markets
24Oct2016 Market Close: Wall Street Closes Higher, Quietly On Low Volume, Crude Back Up, US Dollar Trading At Resistance, Investors Remain Skeptical On Continuing Bullish Market
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

Crowdfunding ....



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved