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The latest rail data from the AAR showed continued year over year growth in rail traffic, however, the pace of expansion has slowed markedly in recent weeks from consistent double digit gains to mid single digits. Intermodal growth slowed to just 5.8%.  The breadth of the recovery has also slowed in recent weeks as just 11 of the 20 commodity groups report year over year increases (via the AAR):

“The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported that weekly rail traffic continues to register gains in 2011 with U.S. railroads originating 282,987 carloads, up 7.5 percent compared with the same week in 2010, for the week ending Jan. 15, 2011. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 213,486 trailers and containers, up 5.8 percent compared with the same week in 2010, with container volume up 7.2 percent, but trailer volume down 1.5 percent.Eleven of the 20 carload commodity groups increased from the comparable week in 2010. Commodities posting significant gains in loadings included: metallic ores, up 119.2 percent, and metals and products, up 17.9 percent. Commodity groups reporting double digit declines were waste and nonferrous scrap, down 20.2 percent, and primary forest products, down 15.2 percent.

Weekly carload volume on Eastern railroads was up 5.9 percent compared with last year. In the West, weekly carload volume was up 8.4 percent compared with the same week in 2010.

For the first two weeks of 2011, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 568,309 carloads, up 13.5 percent from last year, and 427,151 trailers and containers, up 7.2 percent from the comparison week in 2010.”

Source: AAR

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