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Friday, January 04, 2013

AAR: Rail Traffic "mixed" in December

by Calculated Risk on 1/04/2013 06:20:00 PM

From the Association of American Railroads (AAR): AAR Reports Mixed Annual and Monthly Traffic for December

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported mixed 2012 rail traffic compared with 2011. U.S. rail intermodal volume totaled 12.3 million containers and trailers in 2012, up 3.2 percent or 374,918 units, over 2011. Carloads totaled 14.7 million in 2012, down 3.1 percent or 476,322 carloads, from 2011. Intermodal volume in 2012 was the second highest on record, down 0.1 percent or 14,885 containers and trailers, from the record high totals of 2006.
“Coal and grain typically account for around half of U.S. rail carloads, so when they’re down, chances are good that overall rail carloads are down too, as we saw in 2012,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “That said, a number of key rail carload categories showed solid improvement in 2012, including categories like autos and lumber that are most highly correlated with economic growth. Meanwhile, intermodal just missed setting a new volume record in 2012.”
emphasis added
Rail Traffic Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows U.S. average weekly rail carloads (NSA).
U.S. railroads originated 1,086,990 carloads in December 2012, down 4.2% (48,071 carloads) from December 2011 and an average of 271,748 carloads per week. Except for a tiny increase in January, year-over-year total U.S. rail carloads fell each month in 2012 compared with the same month in 2011 ...

In December 2012, as in every prior month in 2012, year-over-year U.S. rail carloads would have increased if not for a decline in coal carloadings. Coal carloads totaled 446,233 in December 2012, down 13.3% (68,372 carloads) from December 2011.

Grain carloads totaled 72,422 in December 2012, down 13.9% (11,708 carloads) from December 2011. December 2012’s average weekly grain carloads of 18,106 were the lowest for any December on record.
Other commodities showing carload increases on U.S. railroads in December 2012 compared with December 2011 include motor vehicles and parts (up 7,252 carloads, or 13.9%) and crushed stone, gravel, and sand (up 5,419 carloads, or 9.1%. Carloads of stone, clay and glass products were up 1,902, or 7.8%, in December 2012, while carloads of lumber and wood products were 1,673, or 16.3%, higher for the month.
Note that building related commodities were up.

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

Rail TrafficGraphs reprinted with permission.

Intermodal traffic is near peak levels (black line).
U.S. rail intermodal traffic totaled 888,002 containers and trailers in December 2012, up 1.7% (14,690 intermodal units) over December 2011 and an average of 222,001 per week ... For all of 2012, U.S. rail intermodal volume totaled 12,267,336 containers and trailers, up 3.2% (374,918 units) over 2011 and just 0.1% (14,885 units) off 2006’s record. A new record almost certainly would have been set in 2012 if not for the strike by harbor clerks at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach beginning in late November, and/or Hurricane Sandy, which severely disrupted rail and port operations on the East Coast beginning in late October.
Intermodal will probably set a new record in 2013.

Earlier on employment:
December Employment Report: 155,000 Jobs, 7.8% Unemployment Rate
Employment Report Comments and more Graphs
Graphs for Duration of Unemployment, Unemployment by Education and Diffusion Indexes
Employment graph gallery