The latest rail data continues to show weak traffic trends despite very easy year over year comparisons. As we’ve long expected, the uptrend in rail data shows certain signs of improvement, but it’s important to keep things in perspective here. At this time last year the economy was in meltdown mode. Despite this, carloads are still 8.9% lower than they were last year and down 17% from 2007. In addition, intermodal traffic is off 7.7% from last year and 15% from 2007. This data continues to display extraordinary weakness in the real economy. The AAR has the full report:
WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 19, 2009 — The Association of American Railroads today reported that freight rail traffic was down for the holiday week ended Nov. 14, 2009. U.S. railroads reported originating 281,218 carloads for the week, down 8.9 percent compared with the same week in 2008 and down 17 percent from the same week in 2007. Rail carloads showed slight improvement, up 2.3 percent from the previous week. In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR will now be reporting 2009 weekly rail traffic with year over comparisons for both 2008 and 2007. Note that each of the 2007 and 2008 comparison weeks to Nov. 14, 2009 included the Veterans Day Holiday.
In the West, carloads were down 8.2 percent compared with the same week last year, and 14.1 percent compared with 2007. In the East, carloads were down 10 percent compared with 2008, and 21 percent compared with the same week in 2007.
Intermodal traffic totaled 208,056 trailers and containers, down 7.7 percent from a year ago and 15 percent from 2007. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume fell 1.5 percent and trailer volume dropped 30.2 percent. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume fell 8.3 percent and trailer volume dropped 38.3 percent. Intermodal traffic was up .6 percent from the previous week.
While 13 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down compared with the same week last year, increases were seen in nonmetallic minerals (19 percent), grain (16.1 percent), chemicals (8.5 percent), waste and scrap metal (6.6 percent), food and kindred products (3.6 percent) and grain mill products (1.7 percent). Declines in commodity groups ranged from .1 percent for motor vehicles and equipment to 51.7 percent for metallic ores.
Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Nov. 14, 2009 was estimated at 31.6 billion ton-miles, down 7.9 percent compared with the same week last year and 11.2 percent from 2007.
For the first 45 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,038,538 carloads, down 17.6 percent from 2008 and 18.3 percent from 2007; 8,588,586 trailers or containers, down 15.9 percent from 2008 and 18.5 percent from 2007, and total volume of an estimated 1.29 trillion ton-miles, down 16.6 percent from 2008 and 16.9 percent from 2007.
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.