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 24 November 2017

Rail Week Ending 18 November 2017: Economically Intuitive Sectors Improved

Week 46 of 2017 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) expanded according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. The economically intuitive sectors remain in expansion and the rolling average growth rate was statistically unchanged.

Analyst Opinion of the Rail Data

We review this data set to understand the economy. If coal and grain are removed from the analysis, this week it improved 4.4 % (meaning that the predictive economic elements improved year-over-year). This week the economically intuitive one year rolling averages continue in expansion for the 25th week - and modestly improved.

Intermodal transport did grew strongly year-over-year this week - which is the economically positive element or rail transport.

The following graph compares the four week moving averages for the rail economically intuitive sectors (red line) vs. total movements (blue line): Rail's intuitive sectors have been bouncing around the zero growth line for most of 2017.

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 [including coal and grain] 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 +0.5 % decelerating decelerating
13 week rolling average +1.4 % unchanged decelerating
52 week rolling average +3.5 % accelerating decelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 554,066 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.2 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending November 18 were 266,927 carloads, down 1.6 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 287,139 containers and trailers, up 3.9 percent compared to 2016.

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included metallic ores and metals, up 4,537 carloads, to 23,696; nonmetallic minerals, up 3,675 carloads, to 38,355; and chemicals, up 1,334 carloads, to 31,939. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included coal, down 8,528 carloads, to 86,185; grain, down 3,841 carloads, to 21,926; and petroleum and petroleum products, down 887 carloads, to 10,184.

For the first 46 weeks of 2017, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,969,281 carloads, up 3 percent from the same point last year; and 12,420,150 intermodal units, up 3.7 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 46 weeks of 2017 was 24,389,431 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 3.4 percent compared to last year.

Coal is over 1/3 of the total railcar count, and this week the EIA says coal production is 6.2 % lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2016.

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 -1.6 % +3.9 % +1.2 %
Ignoring coal and grain +4.4 %
Year Cumulative to Date +3.0 % +3.7 % +3.4 %

[click on graph below to enlarge]

z rail1.png

For the week ended November 18, 2017

  • Estimated U.S. coal production totaled approximately 14.9 million short tons (mmst)
  • This production estimate is 0.9% higher than last week's estimate and 6.2% lower than the production estimate in the comparable week in 2016
  • East of the Mississippi River coal production totaled 5.7 mmst
  • West of the Mississippi River coal production totaled 9.2 mmst
  • U.S. year-to-date coal production totaled 694.7 mmst, 8.6% higher than the comparable year-to-date coal production in 2016

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. 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.

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



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 - 2017 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved