Rail Traffic Remains Consistent With Sluggish Economy

The good news from this week’s rail traffic report is that we’re not sliding into consistently negative readings that might lead us to a far less constructive position on the economy. The bad news is that the 12 week moving average has slid down to 2.4% and is consistent with an economy that remains sluggish.

Here are the details on this week’s data from AAR:

“The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported an increase in traffic for the week ending May 18, 2013, with total U.S. weekly carloads of 285,679 carloads, up 1.9 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 250,156 units, up 3.5 percent compared with the same week last year. Total U.S. traffic for the week was 535,835 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.6 percent compared with the same week last year.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, led by petroleum and petroleum products, up 38 percent. Commodities showing a decrease compared with the same week last year included grain, down 28.3 percent, and metallic ores and metals, down 7.1 percent.

For the first 20 weeks of 2013, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 5,530,177 carloads, down 1.7 percent from the same point last year, and 4,791,035 intermodal units, up 4.3 percent from last year. Total U.S. traffic for the first 20 weeks of 2013 was 10,321,212 carloads and intermodal units, up 1 percent from last year.”

Chart via Orcam Investment Research:



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Cullen Roche

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. He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance and Understanding the Modern Monetary System.

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  • Steve W


    I seem to recall that you predicted the USA’s “great recession” (BSR) would be something like Japan’s BSR — but on “fast forward”.

    I’m not suggesting we’ll stay in this sluggish mode for 20 years, but do you have any predictions you’d like to share about how long it will be until we’re out of the BSR? (My contined concern is that our economy is so fragile that we’re more likely to slip back in to recession before experiencing more robust growth that will bring down unemployment below 6%.)

  • AWF

    26Wk Total has bottomed and turned up
    26wk Total comparable still lagging