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Week 12: North American Freight Rail Traffic on the Fast Track

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Week 12: North American Freight Rail Traffic on the Fast Track PART 1 OF 15

US Freight Rail Traffic Grew in Double Digits Last Week

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 25, 2017, or the 12th week of the year. During that week, US rail traffic (BRK-B) rose 12.0% YoY (year-over-year) to more than 526,000 railcars compared to ~470,000 railcars in the week ended March 26, 2016.

If you want to compare this week’s freight volume data with the previous week’s, check out Market Realist’s Week Ended March 18: US Freight Rail Traffic Gains More Momentum.

US Freight Rail Traffic Grew in Double Digits Last Week

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US freight rail traffic volumes were on the fast track last week. US carloads rose 12.4% YoY to ~261,000 railcars, compared to more than 232,000 railcars in the week ended March 26, 2016. US intermodal volumes rose a marginal 11.6% to ~266,000 units, compared to 238,000 units during the corresponding period last year.

Data from the first 12 weeks

Total US carload traffic for the first 12 weeks of 2017 was ~3.0 million carloads, a rise of 5.5% compared to the same week last year. Intermodal traffic rose 1.1% from its 2016 level.

The total combined US traffic for the first 12 weeks of 2017 reached more than 6.1 million carloads and intermodal units, a rise of 3.2% compared to the same period last year.

Coal played a vital role

According to AAR senior official John Gray, “The 19.2 percent 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 13.1% YoY to more than 80,000 railcars, while Canadian intermodal traffic rose 21.7% to settle at ~63,000 units. For Mexican rail traffic (KSU), carloads reported a rise of 20.6% YoY during the week ended March 25, 2017. Its intermodal traffic surged 36.8% YoY in the same week.

If you’re interested in related ETFs, you could consider the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG). All US Class I railroad companies (NSC) are included in VIG’s portfolio.

Let’s move on to the next part of this series and look at Norfolk Southern’s carloads for the week ended March 25, 2017.

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