Weekly US Railroad Carloadings Down 17.2%, Cumulative Decline By 18.1%

Tyler Durden's picture

Even as we have anniversaried the Lehman collapse, the primary indicator of economic viability and potential growth: intermodal traffic, continues to decline. In fact the weekly decline was slight worse, and came out at -17.2% YoY for week 40, nominally worse than the prior week's -17.1%. The categories most impacted were Primary Forest Products and Lumber and Wood Products, both instrumental in new housing construction. If there is a reason to be buying Centex, Lennar and Toll, sure don't look for it here.

Even the AAR was unable to spin this data in any favorable light:

The Association of American Railroads today reported that for the
week ending Oct. 10, 2009, rail traffic remains down – originating
273,429 carloads, down 17.2 percent compared with the same week in
2008. Regionally, carloads were down 15.4 percent in the West and 19.7
percent in the East.

Intermodal traffic, while down 11 percent from the same week last
year, showed slight signs of improvement this week. U.S. railroads
reported originating 208,941 trailers or containers for 2009 – the
highest weekly intermodal volume for 2009. In the year over year
comparison, however, container volume fell 4.6 percent and trailer
volume dropped 34.9 percent.

Seventeen of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were down from
the same week last year. However, nonmetallic minerals were up 6
percent and grain mill products were up 1.4 percent. Declines in
commodity groups ranged from 3.1 percent for grain to 70.4 percent for
metallic ores.

For the first 40 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative
volume of 10,655,334 carloads, down 18.1 percent from 2008; 7,556,240
trailers or containers, down 16.6 percent, and total volume of an
estimated 1.14 trillion ton-miles, down 17.2 percent. Total volume on
U.S. railroads for the week ending October 10 was estimated at 30.8
billion ton-miles, off 16.1 percent from the same week last year.

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Anonymous's picture

Must be the calm before the storm since I trust the ny manufacturing index claim of 34, a five year high, no less.

All the rail cars are shop getting fixed up for the upcoming holiday season.

That's all, don't worry about it. It's just a demand building technique.

Thanks and enjoy the weekend.

Anonymous's picture

Maybe the carloads are a lot bigger now?

lizzy36's picture

CSX numbers made me giggle.

q3/09 (recession over) volumes down 15% vs. q3/08 (when recession was really bad).....hmmmm.

revenue down 27% y/y and they took $500m in costs out (fired a metric ass tonne of people)......hmmmm.

takeaway: don't look behind the curtain.


Anonymous's picture

And this excerpt (from a Reuters story) depicting the QoQ tale:

The Jacksonville, Florida-based company said that while
overall freight volumes continued to decline during the
quarter, "the rate of decline continued to slow in nearly all
markets compared to the second quarter."

The 'bullish on malaise' flight has approached it's local maxima. Let us watch $NYAD, shall we?

deadhead's picture

ny manufacturing index claim of 34, a five year high

I believe this is accurate.  Our manufacturing in NY is dominated by fraud, deceit, and lots of electronic paper.  If electronic paper had to be transported in rail cars, the AAR report would be completely reversed.

Bonesetter Brown's picture

Semiconductors have staged a nice comeback in demand, and it looks sustainable for now.

Top foundries in Asia were originally expecting to be down 20% for the year, now thinking they will finish the year down 10-15% y-o-y.  After a disastrous Q1, a number of fabs were sold-out in Q2 and Q3.

Listen to Nokia's Q3 conference call, while revenue and margins were down (in part due to smartphone competition), Nokia could have shipped more units were it not for component shortages -- these were shortages all across the spectrum; i.e. display, ICs, etc. 

LG reported LCD shipments and ASPs increasing.  That is very unusual.

I'm not in the green shoot camp, but this has been a very healthy snap back in demand through Q4.

I've got a couple of guys in Taiwan, Korea, China next week.  Will have more data points soon.

ZerOhead's picture

Fantastic news... it will be imports leading the recovery...

Bonesetter Brown's picture

...and chips (including exports) from TI, BRCM, QCOM, INTC, NVDA, ALTR, XLNX, etc.

ZerOhead's picture

Well at least something is moving it seems ... we'll see how it nets out.

ZerOhead's picture

Metallic ores... down 54% YTD and 70% on the week YTY.

So I guess it's not durable goods that will be leading this 'recovery' then... 

Gunther's picture

I wonder what "metallic ore" is in more detail. For iron the numbers are way too small and most blast furnaces are close to water. The ore arrives by ship.
Without further detail that number could be meaningless.

ZerOhead's picture

Good point...

From the American Iron and Steel Institute...

Adjusted year-to-date production through October 10, 2009 was 46,197,000 tons, at a capability utilization rate of 47.9 percent. That is a 46.2 percent decrease from the 85,779,000 tons during the same period last year, when the capability utilization rate was 88.0 percent.

Those are total industry numbers... anyone want to spin "green shoots" out of this story?

Gunther's picture

The steel production numbers are shocking. If there are green shoots appearing, then because the steel company is broke, the plants are shut down and nobody is pulling the weed.

Jeff Lebowski's picture



Our business is 70% related to steel and ferrous and non-ferrous foundries, with the remainder primarily comprised of scrap/recycling/process.

Capital equipment sales to these facilities (steel/foundires) is down approximately 70% from 2008. 

The word "devastated" isn't strong enough to describe what we've seen.  (And once work goes overseas, it doesn't come back).

ZerOhead's picture

 (And once work goes overseas, it doesn't come back).

That's what most people fail to grasp. This country needs to reindustrialise to survive yet every day nothing but the drip drip drip of lost jobs and productive (as opposed to financial) businesses.

Try to hang in... the country needs you.

Anonymous's picture

It's a crazy mixed up world.

Publicly traded lumber companies like UFPI continue to show deep declines in revenue while companies like Black & Decker and WD-40 are upbeat.

They can't give give autos with a rebate but Harleys, ATV's and Motor Homes are doing fine.

Go figure.

cbxer55's picture

If Harley is doing so good, why are they ending their Buell line? That does not sound good to me.


Unless you are being facetious, of course. :>)



bonddude's picture

Toys and productivity increasing devices for work. And this creates any jobs how? What? Oh electronics clecks at Best Buy and Costco. Gotcha.

Anonymous's picture

The only thing that matters right now are week over week 2009 comparisons which are conspicuously absent from this report. Totally fucking useless!!

Fact is shipping this year week over week are actually UP!!!

Anonymous's picture

The only thing that matters right now are week over week 2009 comparisons which are conspicuously absent from this report. Totally fucking useless!!

Fact is shipping this year week over week are actually UP!!!

packeteerist's picture

railroad buddy tells me eastern Montana is a container graveyard.

Pondmaster's picture

Power generation down - coal use ( non metallic ores) down . I see fewer 120 CAR loads of coal in my state ( CSX rail ) . But... lumber is not lost . Just leave it in the ground , and get carbon credits for forested land - PCL ,RYN anyone?  Ah H.R. 2454 , a money maker ( for those on top )

Anonymous's picture

You guys don't know bupkis about RRs. Go to railfax.transmatch.com and see that the lousy YoY are going to turn spectacularly positive in a week or two. We are trending back to 90-95% of pre-crash levels. Not a boom but not a depression either.

Anonymous's picture

Anyone have good sources for truck tonnage and air freight?



Anonymous's picture

Tyler, I think you may be overlooking seasonality in housing starts, which is why the lumber section is off.
Also you may want to look at containers originated as an overall trend. It is down 4.6% for the week y-o-y and 6% from 2007. The gap between containers originated from 2007 and 2008 has been narrowing through the year from early summer (around late May onwards), which suggests a pick-up in economic activity, albeit off a very low base and with the help of a lot of money thrown at the system.
The data is actually consistent with a very sluggish pick-up and some seasonality in shipments going into the Xmas season. The question is whether this can be sustained.