In the week ended March 11, 2017, CSX’s (CSX) overall railcar volumes contracted 3% YoY (year-over-year). In that week of 2017, CSX hauled 70,000 plus railcars as compared to over 72,000 railcars in the corresponding week last year.
CSX’s carloads excluding coal and coke slid marginally by 3%. If you’d like 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?
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CSX’s coal and coke railcar volumes fell 3.4% in the week ended March 11, 2017. However, NSC’s percentage rise in the same category was higher than CSX’s. Coal made up 16.5% of CSX’s volumes in 2016 as compared to 19.5% one year ago.
According to the EIA (US Energy Information Administration), in 2016, coal production fell 18%, or by 158 MMst (million short tons) to 739 MMst. This figure represents the lowest level of coal produced since 1978. In 2017, growth in coal-fired electricity generation is expected to lead to a 7% rise, or an additional 51 MMst, in total US coal production. The majority of the increase will likely come from the western and interior regions of the United States.
Eastern railroads have cited the shift from coal to natural gas (UNG) by electricity generation plants as one of the main reasons for the fall in utility coal transportation. The coal tsunami has affected all major US coal producers including Alliance Resource Partners (ARLP), CONSOL Energy (CNX), and Peabody Energy (BTU), which declared bankruptcy. However, the recent trends in coal prices backed by increased coal transportation could suggest a revival.
The commodity groups that posted significant rises in the week ended March 11, 2017, were as follows:
The prominent falling commodity groups were as follows:
We’ll look at CSX’s intermodal traffic in the next part of this series.