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Why Did CSX’s Carloads Slump in the Week Ending July 23?

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CSX’s carloads

CSX Corporation (CSX) is a major operator in the Eastern United States, competing with Norfolk Southern (NSC). In the week ended July 23, 2016, CSX’s carloads excluding coal and coke fell by 8%, as compared to the 4% fall reported by NSC. Overall, CSX hauled more than 68,000 carloads in the reported week of 2016, as compared to just over 78,000 carloads in the week ended July 25, 2015. This represents a 13.2% decline in weekly carloads YoY (year-over-year).

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Why coal carloads matter to CSX

CSX’s coal and coke railcars fell by 27.9% in the week ended July 23, 2016—double the fall recorded by Norfolk Southern in the same category. Notably, coal accounted for 16% of CSX’s total volumes and 19% of its total revenues in the last fiscal year.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the Appalachia region’s coal output is expected to fall by 9% in 2016, but the agency expects total coal production to increase by 2% and to stabilize in 2017. CSX mainly connects coal mining operations in the Appalachian mountain region.

Eastern railroads have cited the shift from coal to natural gas (UNG) by electricity generation plants as one of the reasons for the fall in utility coal transportation. The coal tsunami has affected major coal producers in the US like Alliance Resource Partners (ARLP), CONSOL Energy (CNX), and Peabody Energy (BTU). Due to the sharp decline coal prices, Peabody filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US on April 13.

Bull and the bear commodity groups

In the week ended July 23, 2016, the commodity groups that posted significant gains were food products, waste and non-ferrous scrap, and motor vehicles and parts. The prominent laggard commodity groups were petroleum and petroleum products, farm products (excluding grain), metallic ores, and non-metallic minerals.

You can compare this week’s rail data from the previous week in How Did Rail Traffic Fare in the Week Ending July 16.

Now let’s look at CSX’s intermodal traffic.

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