Thursday, February 02, 2012

U.S. weekly freight traffic called “mixed”

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U.S. freight carload traffic for the week ending Jan. 28, 2012 was down 2.8% compared with the fourth week of 2011, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. By contrast, U.S. intermodal volume for the week rose 5.5% compared with the same week last year.

AAR said 11 of the 20 carload commodity groups it tracks posted increases compared with the same week in 2011, led by with metallic ores, up 59.2%, motor vehicles and equipment, up 25.1%, and petroleum products, up 22.2% Declining commodities included farm products excluding grain, down 24.3%, grain, down 19.8%, and primary forest products, down 10.7%.

Canadian freight carload volume did better than its U.S. counterpart, up 5.4% for the week ending Jan. 28 compared with last year. Canadian intermodal volume also gained, up 2.4%. Mexican freight carload volume did not fare as well, down 6.5% for the week compared with the same week last year. Mexican intermodal, however, rose 32.9% over the comparable week in 2011.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first four weeks of 2012 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads edged up just 0.3% compared with 2011, while intermodal rose 2.5% compared with the first four weeks of 2011.

The U.S., by itself, saw freight carload volume up 0.1% for the month of January, while U.S. intermodal volume for the first four weeks of 2012 rose 1.7%.

“Total rail carload traffic in January was flat compared with last year, due largely to sharp declines in coal and grain traffic,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “However, a number of other commodity categories — including many that have historically been much more highly correlated with GDP growth than coal and grain—saw large increases in January. That’s a sign that the underlying economy is probably stronger than you would think if you just looked at the rail traffic totals.”

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