Week 7 of 2018 shows same week total rail traffic (from same week one year ago) improved according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR) traffic data. The rolling averages remain mixed.

Analyst Opinion of the Rail Data

We review this data set to understand the economy. If coal and grain are removed from the analysis for carloads, this week it expanded 1.7 %. We primarily use rolling averages the analyze the data due to weekly volatility.

Intermodal transport growth remains strong year-over-year.

The following graph compares the four week moving averages for the rail economically intuitive sectors (red line) vs. total movements (blue line):

This analysis is looking for clues in the rail data to show the direction of economic activity – and is not necessarily looking for clues of profitability of the railroads. The weekly data is fairly noisy, and the best way to view it is to look at the rolling averages (carloads [including coal and grain] and intermodal combined).

  Percent current rolling average is larger than the rolling average of one year ago Current quantities accelerating or decelerating Current rolling average accelerating or decelerating compared to the rolling average one year ago 4 week rolling average +1.4 % accelerating accelerating 13 week rolling average +1.3 % decelerating accelerating 52 week rolling average +2.9 % accelerating decelerating

A summary of the data from the AAR:

For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 539,963 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.1 percent compared with the same week last year.

Total carloads for the week ending February 17 were 260,454 carloads, down 0.6 percent compared with the same week in 2017, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 279,509 containers and trailers, up 6.8 percent compared to 2017.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2017. They included nonmetallic minerals, up 1,689 carloads, to 34,048; chemicals, up 1,102 carloads, to 33,104; and petroleum and petroleum products, up 208 carloads, to 10,097. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2017 included coal, down 2,978 carloads, to 87,962; grain, down 1,316 carloads, to 21,495; and miscellaneous carloads, down 235 carloads, to 9,056.?

For the first seven weeks of 2018, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 1,728,917 carloads, down 2.6 percent from the same point last year; and 1,858,137 intermodal units, up 4 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first seven weeks of 2018 was 3,587,054 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 0.7 percent compared to last year.

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