The latest data from the AAR showed marginal signs of improvement, but with yearly comps becoming very easy the rail data is still showing a very weak real economy. Total carloads were down 12.2% year over year and almost 20% from the same period two years ago. Intermodal traffic declined 9.5% year over year and 15.2% from two years ago. Some segments are showing signs of life, however. Grains reported a 10% year over year climb while minerals, grain mill products and scrap metal all reported marginal year over year gains. We should note, this was the period last year when the economy literally came to a grinding halt so it is a bit surprising to see the continued weakness in the rail data. We would expect the trend to continue upward in the coming weeks and months as comps continue to become increasingly easy and economic activity stabilizes. (You can find the latest monthly railtime report here).
WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 12, 2009 — The Association of American Railroads today reported that freight rail traffic remains down for the week ended Nov. 7, 2009. U.S. railroads reported originating 274,846 carloads for the week, down 12.2 percent compared with the same week in 2008 and down 19.6 percent from the same week in 2007. 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.
Intermodal traffic showed incremental improvement from Week 43, totaling 206,890 trailers and containers, down 9.5 percent from a year ago and 15.2 percent from 2007. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume fell 3.4 percent and trailer volume dropped 32.3 percent. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume fell 8.1 percent and trailer volume dropped 39.8 percent.
While 15 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down compared with the same week last year, increases were seen in grain (10 percent), nonmetallic minerals (2.8 percent), grain mill products (2.4 percent) and waste and scrap metal (1.6 percent). Declines in commodity groups ranged from 1.5 percent for farm products excluding grain to 34.2 percent for lumber and wood products.
Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Nov. 7, 2009 was estimated at 31 billion ton-miles, down 11.5 percent compared with the same week last year and 14.7 percent from 2007.
For the first 44 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,757,465 carloads, down 17.8 percent from 2008 and 18.3 percent from 2007; 8,380,530 trailers or containers, down 16.1 percent from 2008 and 18.6 percent from 2007, and total volume of an estimated 1.26 trillion ton-miles, down 16.8 percent from 2008 and 17 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.