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Why North American Rail Traffic Is Rising—Except in Mexico

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Why North American Rail Traffic Is Rising—Except in Mexico PART 1 OF 11

Inside the US Freight Rail Traffic in Week 26: Growth amid Mixed Signals

US freight rail traffic

The North American rail freight volumes for the week ended July 1, 2017 (Week 26), were recently reported by the AAR (Association of American Railroads). The data from the first half of 2017 gives us a sense of what lies ahead in 2H17. In the 26th week of 2017, total US freight rail volumes (BRK-B) rose to over 546,000 railcars, up 3.2% from ~530,000 railcars in the same week last year.

Further classification of the data reveals that US railcars excluding intermodal grew 2.3% in the week ended July 1, 2017, to more than 270,000 railcars, compared with ~264,000 railcars in the same week last year.

Inside the US Freight Rail Traffic in Week 26: Growth amid Mixed Signals

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US railroad intermodal volumes rose 4% to 276,000 containers and trailers that week, compared with ~265,000 units in the week ended July 2, 2016.

What AAR said

AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray stated the following: “Rail traffic indicators of the economy remain mixed. While some commodity groups, such as intermodal, chemicals, and crushed stone and sand (driven heavily by fractionating sand) set new all-time first half records and a few others like grain and coke set post-recession records, several other traffic categories continue to struggle.”

The commodity groups that recorded significant gains that week included coal (UNG), non-metallic minerals, and chemicals.

Volumes in the first 26 weeks

Overall US carload volumes for the first 26 weeks of 2017 came to ~6,700,000 carloads, up 6.4% on a YoY (year-over-year) basis. Intermodal units totaled ~6,900,000, which is 2.7% higher than the corresponding period last year.

Canadian railroads’ double-digit percentage growth in volumes continued in the 26th week. These railroads reported a 15.1% rise in freight volumes to ~79,000 units. Canadian railways’ intermodal traffic (CNI) jumped 15.6% YoY to over 66,000 containers and trailers.

In the week ended July 1, 2017, participating Mexican railroads (KSU) recorded a 4.8% decline in carloads to ~17,000 railcars, compared with the 26th week of 2016. These railroads’ intermodal volumes were slightly up at 11,000 containers and trailers.

For a weekly comparison of freight rail data, please visit Market Realist’s US Freight Rail Traffic Rose, Mexico Lagged in Week 25.

Continue to the next part for a look at Norfolk Southern’s (NSC) carloads in the 26th week of 2017.

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