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Friday, October 05, 2012

AAR: Rail Traffic "mixed" in September

by Calculated Risk on 10/05/2012 02:35:00 PM

Once again rail traffic was "mixed". However all of the decline in rail carloads was due to fewer coal shipments.

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR): AAR Reports Mixed Weekly Rail Traffic for September

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail carloads originated in September 2012 totaled 1,152,174 carloads, down 3.7 percent (43,746 carloads) compared with September 2011. Intermodal traffic in September totaled 973,715 containers and trailers, up 2.5 percent (24,126 units) compared with September 2011. September 2012 represents the 34th straight month of intermodal gains.
“September rail traffic is again a mix of good news and bad news,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “The primary bad news is that coal carloads continue to struggle, due to the various economic and regulatory constraints faced by coal-fired power plants. The good news is that many other key rail traffic categories are offsetting coal’s decline, including petroleum and petroleum products, motor vehicles, crushed stone and sand, and lumber. Intermodal volume has risen for 34 straight months and could very well set a new record this year.”
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads (NSA).
On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, total U.S. rail carload traffic fell 3.7% (43,746 carloads) in September 2012 from September 2011 ... As has been the case for many months, coal was largely to blame for the decline in total carloads. Coal carloads were down 12.1% (65,867 carloads) in September 2012 from September 2011, more than accounting for the total carload decline for the month. Excluding coal, U.S. carloads were up 3.4% (22,121 carloads) in September 2012

Carloads of crushed stone, sand, and gravel were up 9,044 carloads, or 12.3%, in September 2012. Much, if not most, of the increase in this category is probably attributable to higher frac sand movements.
The second graph is for intermodal traffic (using intermodal or shipping containers):

Rail TrafficGraphs reprinted with permission.

Intermodal traffic is near peak levels.
U.S. rail intermodal traffic rose in September for the 34th straight month too, rising 2.5% (24,126 containers and trailers) over September 2011. Intermodal volume averaged 243,429 units per week in September 2012, the third-highest monthly average so far this year. September is usually the second- or third-highest volume intermodal month of the year, but it will probably be no better than fourth in 2012, since October is usually the top intermodal month. In the last week of September 2012, volume was 257,225 containers and trailers, the best intermodal week of the year and the third highest of all time.
The top months for intermodal are usually in the fall, and it looks like intermodal traffic will be at or near record levels this year.

This is more evidence of sluggish growth.

Earlier on employment:
September Employment Report: 114,000 Jobs, 7.8% Unemployment Rate
Employment: Somewhat Better (also more graphs)
All Employment Graphs