Rail Traffic Increases In September--AAR

One of the indicators I follow to gauge the health of the US economy is the AAR's Monthly Rail Traffic Report, which tracks the number of railroad carloadings. The idea is that economic growth (GDP) is closely correlated with the amount of stuff shipped by railroads  It is also one of Warren Buffett's favorite economic indicators. From the American Association of Railroads:

U.S. freight railroads originated 1,487,511 carloads in September 2010, an average of 297,502 carloads per week. That’s up 7.7% from September 2009 and down 7.5% from September 2008 on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. It’s also the highest weekly average for any month since October 2008. September in all three years included the Labor Day holiday.

Average unadjusted weekly carloads are typically lower in September than in August because of the Labor Day holiday. This year, though, September’s weekly unadjusted average (297,502) was higher than August’s (294,862). Why? The week with Labor Day was, as usual, one of the lowest-volume weeks of the year, but the other four weeks in September 2010 were all among the six highest-volume weeks of the year. The top two weeks so far in 2010 were in September.

That explains why seasonally adjusted U.S. rail carloads were up 1.9% in September 2010 over August 2010, reaching their highest level since November 2008.

You can see from the chart below that railroad carloadings are up compared to 2009, but still down from the 2006 and 2007.

Intermodal carloadings were flat compared to Aug 2010, but are still the strongest part of the market and are getting close to the highs reached in 2006.

 On a seasonally adjusted basis, U.S. rail intermodal traffic fell fractionally (0.08%) in September 2010 from August 2010. The seasonally-adjusted weekly average of 224,189 trailers and containers in September 2010 was still the second highest since August 2008.

Black Swan Insights


1 comment: