Rail Traffic Continues to Show Modest Expansion

The AAR reported a 3.6% increase in intermodal traffic this week and a -2.1% decline in carloads.  This data has been remarkably consistent in recent weeks though it’s off slightly in the last few months.  The 10 week moving average has dipped just slightly to 5% from 5.1% last week.  Intermodal has been a very good leading indicator of economic growth and continues to point to an economy that is modestly expanding.  The AAR has more details:

“The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported mixed weekly rail traffic for the week ending August 18, 2012, with U.S. railroads originating 293,916 carloads, down 2.1 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 247,224 trailers and containers, up 3.6 percent compared with the same week last year.

Ten of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, with petroleum products, up 45.6 percent; farm products excluding grain, up 37.4 percent, and lumber and wood products, up 16.4 percent. The groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included metallic ores, down 29 percent, and waste and nonferrous scrap, down 25.6 percent.

Weekly carload volume on Eastern railroads was down 5 percent compared with the same week last year. In the West, weekly carload volume was down 0.1 percent compared with the same week in 2011.

For the first 33 weeks of 2012, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 9,299,868 carloads, down 2.4 percent from the same point last year, and 7,729,316 trailers and containers, up 3.6 percent from last year.”

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Cullen Roche

Mr. Roche is the Founder of Orcam Financial Group, LLC. Orcam is a financial services firm offering research, private advisory, institutional consulting and educational services.

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  • GRock

    Wonder with the Mississippi drying up slowing barge traffic if some of the freight gets put on rails? Scewing this reading as an economic gauge?

  • But What Do I Know?

    Same question as GRock–any way of figuring this out?

    On the flip side, is electricity generation from natural gas cutting into “normal” coal shipments?

  • GRock

    Good thought on coal, but think that would be a much more gradual trend than a sudden decrease in barge traffic you think?

  • A Campbell

    Intermodal is more of an indicater of imports than domestic manufacturing.