The lull in rail freight volume growth might have ended last month, as seasonally adjusted U.S. carload traffic in commodities, semi-finished factory products and finished equipment rose after two months of declines.
In June nominal intermodal growth was not enough to match normal seasonal trends and box hauls declined an adjusted 1.1 percent. The Association of American Railroads said July shipments of containers and trailers by major U.S.-owned railroads increased a seasonally adjusted 2.4 percent. That took the adjusted box volume to its highest level since August 2008, the AAR said.
By The Numbers: U.S. Rail Cargo.
The shift follows two months in which rail traffic confirmed a pause in economic momentum and raised concerns because freight activity should be strengthening during a period of recovery from recession.
Weekly rail freight numbers began to grow again about mid-July. Then, in the final week of July, the trade group said U.S. railroads had their strongest actual carload volume since November 2008, while intermodal traffic was the highest since July 2008.
For all of July, average weekly unadjusted bulk carloadings slid for the third straight month to 280,577 loads originated by U.S. major carriers. That’s down from 283,126 in June, 288,419 in May and 294,758 in April.
But John Gray, the AAR’s senior vice president and top economist, said “we typically see a lull in some categories of traffic this time of year, so looking at seasonally adjusted data may be more helpful in gauging rail traffic” for July.
So after adjusting for seasonal norms, the AAR said July’s U.S. railcar loads rose 3.2 percent, after falling 1.2 percent in June and declining 0.9 percent in May.
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