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Norfolk Southern: Commodities that Led the Carload Rise in Week 23

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Norfolk Southern’s carloads

In the Eastern United States, Norfolk Southern (NSC) is a dominant player along with CSX (CSX). In the week ended June 10, 2017, Norfolk Southern’s overall railcar volumes expanded 4.2%. The number of railcars grew to over 71,000 from 68,000-plus railcars in the week ended June 11, 2016.

The number of railcars minus coal and coke saw a volume decline of 2.3% in the reported week of 2017. However, much of the respite was offered by coal and coke (ARLP) carloads, which saw robust growth of 22.6% YoY (year-over-year) in the week ended June 10, 2017. Beginning in 2017, Norfolk Southern has witnessed a steady rise in coal volumes, which is a positive sign for investors.

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Coal drivers in 2017

The share of coal (CNX) fell to 15.0% of NSC’s 2016 revenues in 2016 from 23.0% in 2009. Plus, Henry Hub natural gas prices (UNG) were up in the first four months of 2017 compared with 2016 levels.

During Norfolk Southern’s (NSC) presentation during the Citi Industrials Conference on June 14, 2017, it noted that among the major coal drivers, coal stockpiles remained higher than the target. On a sequential basis, coal transportation volumes are expected to fall, although they are higher than the 2016 levels. However, the price of export coal is anticipated to be higher in 2Q17 on a year-over-year basis.

Changes in commodity groups

In the week ended June 10, 2017, the rising commodity groups were as follows:

  • crushed stone, sand, and gravel
  • metals and products
  • motor vehicles and equipment

Chemicals, grain mill products, grain, and petroleum products were the main commodity groups that saw a decline in volumes in the reported week of 2017.

In the next part, we’ll review Norfolk Southern’s intermodal traffic.

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