Friday, February 06, 2009

Analyst: "Glimmer of hope" for rail traffic

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Dahlman Rose & Co. Director Equity Research and Railway Age Contributing Editor Jason Seidl sees “as a glimmer of hope in an otherwise weak rail environment” as some traffic sectors are beginning to show signs of recovery.

Declining volume numbers in November (10%), Decembejasonseidl.jpgr (17%), and January (13.5%) “may be somewhat overinflated as many mines and manufacturing plants have temporarily shuttered operations over this period,” Seidl said. “Although we are far from calling a turning point, we have started to hear about some of these operations coming back on line. The question we ask is, where is the true underlying demand? Although we would be loath to answer this question (we note that even the railroads themselves are steering clear of trying to provide an answer), we view these operations coming back on line as a glimmer of hope in an otherwise weak rail environment.”

Seidl noted that Class I overall volumes “continue to remain extremely depressed on severe demand destruction and extended production curtailments, both mine and plants.” However, service metrics have been strong. “Overall performance was solid as train speed, cars on line, and dwell time improved 11.0%, 2.3% and 2.8%, respectively” over the past two weeks.