U.S. total rail volumes rose 3.7% year-over-year in Week 22, with intermodal (+7.2%) continuing to outpace rail carloads (+1.1%).
“We believe that volumes will continue to grow in the mid-single-digits during the first half of the year, which should continue as the year progresses,” according to a Jefferies & Co. analysis.
Agricultural products surged in Week 22, jumping 11% from a year earlier (vs. +8.3% YoY in Week 21 and +7.8% YoY on a six-week moving average basis).
Coal (the largest single bulk category) decreased again in Week 22, dropping 4.7% YoY (vs. -0.5% YoY in Week 21 and -2.3% YoY on a six-week moving average basis). In its latest Beige Book report, the Federal Reserve made several references to coal volumes, including the following statement: “Coal production was stable to moderately lower since our last report, with little change anticipated for the remainder of the year. Spot prices for coal, especially metallurgical, are moving higher, which was attributed in part to a rise in transportation costs. We heard several reports of increased prices for diesel fuel, equipment, parts, and materials used in coal production. Severe spring weather in the Midwest is interfering with coal shipments to utilities and exports from New Orleans.”