U.S. total rail volumes increased 14.9% year-over-year in the week ending January 8, according to the American Association of Railroads (AAR).
This compares to +8.1% YoY in the last week of 2010 and +11.7% on a six-week moving average basis. Carloads gained 20.1% YoY in Week 1 (vs. +5.6% YoY in Week 52 and 11.1% on a six-week moving average basis), whereas intermodal increased 8.6% YoY during the week (vs. +11.9% YoY in Week 52 and +12.5% on a six-week moving average basis). According to Jefferies & Company, Inc, the strength continues to be driven by metallic ores and metals, up 33.5% YoY in Week 1 (vs. +35.7% YoY in Week 52 and +32.7% YoY on a six-week moving basis). Coal was also a notable gainer, up 24.8% YoY in Week 1 (vs. -2.0% YoY in Week 52 and +10.4% on a six-week moving basis).
Forest products decelerated sharply in Week 1, increasing just +4.9% YoY (vs. +21.0% YoY in Week 52 and +9.8% YoY on a six-week moving basis).
“The data suggest that the rails are off to a good start in 2011,” Jefferies & Company, Inc, said in a release. “Industry-wide volumes continue to grow at robust levels, although comps will get increasingly difficult. The sharp bounce-back in coal volumes, as well as CSX's velocity, suggest that recent service disruptions following the Christmas snowstorms are being worked through. It's unclear to us whether the increased coal volumes are purely a catch-up, or if recent disruptions in international coal supply is already starting to show up in the data.”