CSX’s weekly railcar units
In the week ending March 26, 2016, CSX’s (CSX) railcar units, excluding coal and coke, fell by 8.0%. The company hauled ~54,000 units as compared to 58,000 units in the week ending March 28, 2015. This fall in railcar units, excluding coal, was double the fall recorded by its main competitor, Norfolk Southern (NSC). We should note that CSX’s fall in total railcar units of ~15% was on par with the overall fall of all US railroad carriers for the week ending March 26, 2016.
Why coal carloads matter
CSX’s coal plus coke carloads fell by a staggering 31% to ~16,000 units in the week ending March 26, 2016. CSC reported 22,000 railcar units in the corresponding period in 2015. This fall was in line with rival Norfolk Southern’s fall for the same period. Coal represented 16% of CSX’s total volumes and 19% of total revenues in 2015.
According to a March 2016 press release by the EIA (US Energy Information Administration), the Appalachia region’s coal output is expected to fall by 9% in 2016. However, the agency expects total coal production will increase by 2% and stabilize in 2017. CSX mainly connects coal mining operations in the Appalachia region. This will impact CSX’s coal transportation in 2016.
The Eastern railroad carriers have cited a shift from coal to natural gas (UNG) for electricity generation plants as one of the reasons for the fall in utility coal transportation. The coal tsunami has affected major US coal producers like Alliance Resource Partners (ARLP), CONSOL Energy (CNX), and Peabody Energy (BTU).
The bull and the bear commodity groups
The following commodities posted major gains for CSX in the week ending March 26, 2016:
- waste and nonferrous scrap
- motor vehicles and parts
- primary forest products
The major bear commodity groups included farm products excluding grain, petroleum and petroleum products, primary metal products, metallic ores, and crushed stone, sand, and gravel.
For information on the previous week’s rail traffic, visit Market Realist’s weekly rail traffic report from last week.
The intermodal business has witnessed a bumpy ride in the last few quarters for all Class I railroad carriers. We’ll go through CSX’s intermodal traffic in the next article in this series.