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Few things have been more confusing during this recovery than rail traffic volumes.  What has normally proven to be a fairly reliable leading indicator has lagged during the recovery and is hitting new highs just when the global economy appears to be hitting an air pocket.  This week’s traffic data was once again very strong.  Via the AAR:

“The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported that intermodal volume on U.S. freight railroads for the week ended June 19, 2010, reached its highest level since the 45th week of 2008. Intermodal traffic totaled 227,985 trailers and containers, up 21.2 percent from last year but down .2 percent from 2008. In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic, AAR now reports 2010 weekly rail traffic with comparison weeks in both 2009 and 2008.Compared with the same week in 2009, container volume increased 23.2 percent while trailer volume rose 10.5 percent. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume was up 8.8 percent while trailer volume fell 32.8 percent.

Rail carloads last week also posted gains over the comparable week in 2009. U.S. railroads originated 284,913 carloads during the week ended June 19, up 9.2 percent from the comparable week in 2009, but down 10 percent from 2008.

Carload volume on Eastern railroads was up 12.2 percent from last year, but down 15.8 percent from 2008. In the West, carload volume was up 7.2 percent from last year but down 5.6 percent from two years ago.

Fifteen of the 19 carload commodities groups increased from the comparable week in 2009, with metallic ores, up 108.9 percent, and metals and metal products, up 78.2 percent, posting the most significant gains. Other notable gains include coke, up 52.6 percent, and motor vehicles and products, up 49.8 percent. Only one commodity group – coke, up .2 percent – posted an increase over 2008 levels.

For the first 24 weeks of 2010, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 6,767,470 carloads, up 7.2 percent from 2009, but down 13.4 percent from 2008; 4,976,377 trailers or containers, up 11.7 percent from 2009, but down 7.3 percent from 2008.”

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