November 2010 Railroad Data Implies a Slowing Economy

Railroad loading data released by the Association of American Railroads for November 2010 continues to confirm the slowing economy forecast of Econintersect for November 2010.

The above chart on the right shows the YoY decline in the data which support Econintersect’s analysis.  Further, Econintersect’s new December 2010 forecast implies that the YoY rail traffic growth will narrow further in December.

The good news in the New Normal for the railroads was the growth in intermodal transport – the transport of sea container and trailers on rail cars.  It is not necessarily good news for the trucking industry as it was eating into their tonnage-mile transport data. However, the recent trend line has been showing declining despite historically high sea container counts (analysis here).   Has the trucking industry started eating into the rail industry’s market?

Coal historically is one of the major items shipped on rail.  Coal has not recovered in the USA from the Great Recession, but the Canadian Railways are seeing historically high rail count shipments due to exports to China.

There are specific signs of a slowing economy in the data.  One on the most obvious one is the decline in automobile shipments to recent historical lows which is puzzling.

With the new housing market at all time lows (analysis here), it should come as no surprise that lumber shipments are running at all time lows.

Overall, the data clearly demonstrates “less good” growth.  It seems weak across all types of rail traffic indicative of slowing economic growth.  The concern in the data was the unexpected collapse of automobile shipments.  One month is not a trend – but does not foretell good December automobile sales.