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Downtrend in US Rail Traffic Persisted for 16th Straight Week


May. 20 2019, Published 12:19 p.m. ET

Rail traffic fell again

US railroad companies reported rail traffic declines for the 16th straight week. The Association of American Railroads reported on May 16 that overall rail traffic for these companies fell 3.7% in Week 19, which ended on May 11. US railroad companies hauled 529,263 units compared to the 549,598 units they moved in the same week last year.

These companies registered volume declines across carload and intermodal units. Their carload traffic fell 3.1% YoY (year-over-year) to 258,641 railcars in Week 19.

US railroad companies recorded significant traffic declines across coal, nonmetallic minerals, and metallic ore and metals. These companies recorded volume gains across petroleum and petroleum products, miscellaneous products, and motor vehicles and parts.

US railroad companies’ intermodal traffic fell 4.3% YoY to 270,622 containers and trailers.

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Canadian and Mexican railcar traffic

Traffic at Canadian railroad companies inched up 0.2% YoY to 155,187 units. Carload traffic at these companies grew 1.2% YoY to 85,195 railcars in Week 19. However, their intermodal traffic fell 1.1% YoY to 69,992 containers and trailers.

Mexican railroad companies’ cumulative traffic increased 4.1% YoY in Week 19 to 40,152 carloads and intermodal units. Their intermodal traffic soared 7.6% YoY to 18,608 units, and their carload traffic grew 1.3% YoY to 21,544 railcars.

Class I railroad companies’ performances

Of the seven Class I railroad companies, five reported a rail traffic decline in Week 19. CSX (CSX) registered the highest fall of 4.3%. BNSF Railway, Union Pacific (UNP), Norfolk Southern (NSC), and Kansas City Southern (KSU) reported volume declines of 4.2%, 2.5%, 1%, and 0.5%, respectively. Canadian National Railway (CNI) and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) recorded traffic gains of 1.3% and 0.1%, respectively.

To gain exposure in the railroad industry, you can invest in the iShares Transportation Average ETF (IYT). The ETF invests in transportation stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and has allocated 52.5% of its fund in the ground freight and logistics industry. The ETF has gained 14.6% in the year so far.


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