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Will Surge in US Freight Rail Traffic Continue?

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Will Surge in US Freight Rail Traffic Continue? PART 1 OF 17

US and Canada Freight Rail Traffic Volumes Were in the Fast Lane

US freight rail traffic

Every week, the AAR (Association of American Railroads) publishes North American freight rail data for the previous week. The latest figures are for the week ended March 11, 2017, or the tenth week of the year. If you want to compare this week’s freight volume data with the previous week’s, check out Market Realist’s Week Ended March 4: Was US Rail Traffic on the Right Track?

During the tenth week of 2017, US rail traffic (BRK-B) rose 4.4% YoY (year-over-year) to ~511,000 railcars as compared to over 489,000 railcars in the week ended March 12, 2016.

US and Canada Freight Rail Traffic Volumes Were in the Fast Lane

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US carloads rose 4.3% YoY to ~254,000 railcars as compared to over 243,000 railcars in the week ended March 12, 2016. Intermodal volumes went up by a similar percentage to ~257,000 units, up from 246,000 units during the corresponding period last year.

Data from the first ten weeks

Total US carload traffic for the first ten weeks of 2017 was ~2.6 million carloads, up 4.9% from the same point last year. However, intermodal traffic was up 0.2% in percentage terms from levels in 2016.

The total combined US traffic for the first ten weeks of 2017 reached more than 5.1 million carloads and intermodal units, representing a rise of 2.5% as compared to this time last year.

Coal played a vital role

According to AAR senior official John Gray, “The 19.2% increase in coal carloads in February 2017 was the highest percentage gain for coal since sometime before 1988 when our current record series began.” Gray added, “While it’s an impressive gain, February 2017 was, unfortunately, also the second worst February in absolute terms for coal since sometime before 1988. It’s all too representative of the challenges railroads are facing as their markets change.”

Canadian and Mexican rail traffic

Canadian rail traffic (CNI) rose 9% YoY to just over 77,000 railcars, while intermodal traffic rose 3% to settle at 58,000 units. For Mexican railroads (KSU), the tenth week offered a mixed bag. While carloads reported a rise of 8.9% during the week ended March 11, 2017, intermodal traffic fell 4.1% YoY in the tenth week.

Investors interested in ETFs could opt for the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG). All US Class I railroads (NSC) are included in VIG’s portfolio.

Continue to the next part for a look at Norfolk Southern’s carloads for the week ended March 11, 2017.

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