For the week ending Nov. 24, U.S. railroads reported 252,931 carloads, down 4.6 percent, and 194,538 containers and trailers, up 1.9 percent compared with volumes from the same week last year, according to the Association of American Railroads.
Twelve of 20 carload commodity groups posted gains, led by petroleum products (63.6 percent), farm products excluding grain (24.8 percent), and lumber and wood products (17.1 percent). Metallic ores volume fell 24.7 percent, grain loads dropped 16.7 percent and coal carloads declined 12.2 percent.
But utility coal volumes might tick up next year. Peabody Energy, the nation's largest coal producer, expects U.S. coal demand to increase by 40 million to 60 million tons in 2013, recouping roughly half of the coal production lost in 2012, Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. analysts said in their latest "Rail Flash" report.
"Peabody noted that increased demand is driven by stronger coal burn and increased natural gas prices, which at $4 per MMBtu bring both Powder River Basin and Illinois Basin coal into the money," they said.
Meanwhile, Canadian railroads reported 77,180 carloads for the week, up 3.1 percent, and 50,567 containers and trailers, up 5.4 percent year over year. Mexican railroads' weekly carloads rose 8.6 percent to 14,418 units and intermodal volume climbed 20.3 percent to 10,556 units.
Through the year's first 47 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 17,599,573 carloads, down 1.9 percent, and 14,045,177 containers and trailers, up 4.5 percent compared with totals from last year.
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