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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rail Traffic Declines Slightly in February

by Calculated Risk on 3/10/2010 01:43:00 PM

From the Association of American Railroads: Rail Time Indicators. The AAR reports traffic in February 2010 was down 1.7% compared to February 2009, and off 0.1% compared to January 2010 (seasonally adjusted).

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

This graph shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads. It is important to note that excluding coal, traffic is up 7.2% from February 2009, and traffic increased in 14 of the 19 major commodity categories YoY.

Housing: In addition to the decline in coal, two key building materials were also down YoY from February 2009: Forest products (off 1.7% YoY, and 27.5% compared to Feb 2008) and Nonmetallic minerals & prod. (crushed stone, gravel, sand was off 8.6% YoY, and 25.2% compared to Feb 2008). This fits with the recent data on housing starts, new home sales, and the NAHB home builder index that shows residential investment is flat - at best.

From AAR:

• On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, U.S. freight railroads originated 1,089,977 carloads in February 2010 — an average of 272,494 carloads per week. That’s down 1.5% from February 2009 (276,548 average) and down 15.6% from February 2008’s 323,047 average (see chart)

• On a seasonally adjusted basis, U.S. rail carloads fell 0.1% in February 2010 from January 2010 and were down 1.7% from February 2009.

• The heavy snow negatively affected railroads, both by making rail operations more difficult and by preventing rail customers from originating or receiving loads. ... it’s not possible to precisely quantify the snow’s impact on rail traffic.
emphasis added, excerpts with permission
Blame it on the snow!

Note: The new truck fuel consumption based Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index™ showed a decline in February too: Disappointing February, Potentially Dampened by Record Snowfalls