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Canadian National’s Intermodal Volumes: A Ray of Hope

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Canadian National’s intermodal volumes

In the week ended February 11, 2017, Canadian National Railway’s (CNI) overall intermodal volumes rose 2.6%. The rise in container volumes was almost equal to the overall volume fall that same week. Trailer movement remained flat.

The company moved ~44,500 containers in the sixth week of 2017, as compared to ~43,000 containers in the corresponding week of 2016. The percentage rise in CNI’s intermodal volumes was almost in tune with the rise reported by Canadian railroads.

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Why is intermodal important for CNI?

Canadian National’s intermodal segment contributed more than one-quarter of the company’s total revenues in 2016. Of the segment’s total carloads that year, intermodal’s share was ~42%. Canadian National also operates one of the largest trucking services in Canada, which supplements its intermodal business.

Canadian National’s competitive advantage is its sole access to the Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia. CNI also connects Vancouver, British Columbia, with Prince Rupert in a long arc, which provides opportunities for the company to move containers from Asia to the North American heartland.

CNI’s domestic segment is driven by consumer markets and by US and Canadian economic growth. Its international segment is influenced by North American economic and trade conditions. In the intermodal business, the company faces competition from truckload companies such as J.B. Hunt Transport Services (JBHT), Swift Transportation (SWFT), and Landstar System (LSTR).

ETF option

If you’re looking for exposure to the transportation sector, you can always invest in the Guggenheim S&P 500 Equal Weight ETF (RSP). All US-originated Class I railroads are included in the portfolio holdings of RSP.

In the next part, we’ll take a look at CNI’s rival, Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), and its weekly rail traffic data.

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