Rail Traffic Stabilizing in Low Single Digits

Rail traffic trends have been undoubtedly weak in recent weeks as we’ve seen double digit year over year growth slide into negative territory.  This brought our 12 week moving average from a high of 6.75% in March to the low single digits.

The latest intermodal traffic data from AAR showed 2.8% growth which is an improvement from last week’s 1.6% reading, but still trending lower on a monthly basis.  We’re now at a 3 month low in the moving average at 3.13%.  So there are some small signs of stability, but the overall trend is still down.

Given the negative readings in recent weeks we should see this trend continue to weaken further in the coming weeks.  Rail traffic appears to be confirming the muddle through scenario, but is clearly not consistent with recession.

Here’s more detail from this week’s report via AAR:

“The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported an increase in traffic for the week ending May 4, 2013, with total U.S. weekly carloads of 283,916 carloads, up 2.8 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 245,678 units, up 2.8 percent compared with the same week last year.  Total U.S. traffic for the week was 529,594 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.8 percent compared with the same week last year.

Six of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2012, led by petroleum and petroleum products, up 52.4 percent. Commodities showing a decrease included grain, down 5.9 percent.
For the first 18 weeks of 2013, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,963,512 carloads, down 2.1 percent from the same point last year, and 4,292,613 intermodal units, up 4.3 percent from last year. Total U.S. traffic for the first 18 weeks of 2013 was 9,256,125 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.8 percent from last year.”

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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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