The weak trend in rail data continued this week as intermodal traffic and total carloads increased ~1% over last year. In my opinion, this is consistent with a US economy that is stagnant, but not collapsing. Overall, I think this is expected given the balance sheet recession and the easing in government spending. The AAR elaborates on this week’s data:
“The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported gains for weekly rail traffic, with U.S. railroads originating 300,521 carloads for the week ending August 20, 2011, up 1.1 percent compared with the same week last year. Intermodal volume for the week totaled 238,680 trailers and containers, up 1 percent compared with the same week last year.
Fourteen of the 20 carload commodity groups posted increases from the comparable week in 2010, including: metallic ores, up 24.7 percent; iron and steel scrap, up 15.8 percent, and petroleum products, up 15 percent. Groups showing a decrease in weekly traffic included: grain, down 21.3 percent, and farm products excluding grain, down 14.5 percent.
Weekly carload volume on Eastern railroads was up 1.3 percent compared with the same week last year. In the West, weekly carload volume was up 0.9 percent compared with the same week in 2010.
For the first 33 weeks of 2011, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 9,531,017 carloads, up 2 percent from the same point last year, and 7,461,628 trailers and containers, up 6.3 percent from last year.”