Econintersect: Week 20 of 2012 ending 19 May 2012 shows rail traffic is still below 2011 levels according to data released by the American Association of Railroads (AAR). However, excluding coal which is not an economic indicator, rail is expanding 3.5% year-over-year.
“Twelve of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, with petroleum products, up 49.4 percent; motor vehicles and equipment, up 23.3 percent, and lumber and wood products, up 17.9 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included nonmetallic minerals, down 16.3 percent; coal, down 16.1 percent, and coke, down 8.6 percent.”
A good background article on the switch of the power generating plants from coal to natural gas was published 30May2012 in the NYT.
The pattern in the data is the same as it has been for over recent months. The majority of the reason for the contraction is coal movements – which would only effect the profitability of railroads, and not an economic indicator as coal is an alternative fuel to oil and natural gas – U.S. production of those are up sharply in recent months. This week rail growth was strongly positive when coal was removed from the calculation
|This week Year-over-Year||-5.0%||3.1%||-3.9%|
|This week without coal||3.5%|
|Year Cumulative to Date||-3.4%||2.8%||-2.5%|
Note that the total year-to-date traffic is contracting year-over-year.