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Friday, August 03, 2012

AAR: Rail Traffic "mixed" in July, Intermodal at Record Level

by Calculated Risk on 8/03/2012 04:07:00 PM

Once again rail traffic was "mixed". Building related commodities were up such as lumber and crushed stone, gravel, sand. Lumber was up 9% from July 2011.

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR): AAR Reports Mixed Weekly and July Monthly Rail Traffic

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail carloads originated in July 2012 totaled 1,103,733, down 7,787 carloads or 0.7 percent, compared with July 2011. Intermodal volume in July 2012 was 946,071 trailers and containers, up 50,431 units or up 5.6 percent, compared with July 2011. The July 2012 weekly intermodal average of 236,518 trailers and containers is the highest July average in history.
“Carloads of some of the more economically sensitive commodities, such as lumber and wood, steel, and autos, gave us a mixed message in July. While lumber related to home construction remained very positive, other manufactured goods either grew more slowly than they have been or actually fell in July,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “It remains to be seen if this is just a blip or something more serious. More positively, intermodal volume remains on track to see a record year in 2012.”
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads (NSA).
U.S. railroads originated 1,103,733 total carloads in July 2012, down 0.7% (7,787 carloads) from July 2011. It was the sixth straight year-over-year monthly decline, but at 0.7% it was the lowest percentage decline in those six months.

Eight of the 20 commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains in July 2012 year over year, the lowest such number since May 2011. By contrast, 13 of the 20 categories are up year-to-date in 2012 compared with 2011.
Grains is off 10% year-over-year due to fewer exports.

The second graph is for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers):

Rail TrafficGraphs reprinted with permission.

Intermodal traffic is now at peak levels.
U.S. intermodal traffic was up 5.6% (50,431 containers and trailers) in July 2012 over July 2011 to 946,071 units, its 32nd consecutive year-over-year monthly increase. Average weekly intermodal volume in July 2012 was 236,518 units, the highest of any July in history
The top months for intermodal are usually in the fall, and it looks like intermodal traffic will be at record levels this year.

This is more evidence of sluggish growth - and of residential investment making a positive contribution.
Earlier on employment:
July Employment Report: 163,000 Jobs, 8.3% Unemployment Rate
Employment: Another Fairly Weak Report (more graphs)
All Employment Graphs