Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rail Traffic "Recovering at moderate pace"

by Bill McBride on 5/12/2010 10:54:00 AM

From the Association of American Railroads: Rail Time Indicators. The AAR reports traffic in April 2010 was up 15.8% compared to April 2009 - although traffic was still 11.5% lower than in April 2008.

Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image in new window.

This graph shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads. Traffic increased in all 19 major commodity categories YoY.

From AAR:

• U.S. freight railroads originated 1,179,029 carloads in April 2010, up 15.8% from April 2009 on a nonseasonally adjusted basis. That could very well be the highest year-over-year percentage increase for any month ever. It’s definitely the highest since at least January 1989, which is the first month for which we have comparable data.

• Part of the big percentage gain in April 2010 reflects real traffic growth, but some of it also reflects the fact that April 2009 was a lousy month for U.S. freight railroads (see chart). May 2009 was even worse, so we can probably expect a very large year-over-year percentage increase in May 2010 too.

• Is this good news? Absolutely. But some caution is in order. Total U.S. rail carloads in April 2010 were still down 11.5% from April 2008, including in 17 of the 19 commodity categories. Generally speaking, recent U.S. rail traffic gains are consistent with an economy that is recovering at a moderate but not breathtaking pace.
excerpts with permission
The graph above shows that rail traffic collapsed in November 2008, and now ten months into the recovery, traffic has only recovered half way. This is clearly not a "V-shaped" recovery - there is still a long way to go.

Rail Traffic LumberThe second graph from the AAR report shows lumber rail traffic compared to U.S. housing starts.

From the AAR:
Happy days are not yet here again for homebuilders.
That says it all!