U.S. rail traffic maintained momentum in the week ending May 18, when carloads increased 1.9 percent to 285,679 units and intermodal loads rose 3.5 percent to 250,156 units compared with volumes from the same week last year, according to the Association of American Railroads. Total U.S. traffic ratcheted up 2.6 percent to 535,835 units.
Although grain volume fell 28.3 percent and metallic ores/metals traffic tumbled 7.1 percent, five of 10 carload commodity groups posted gains, led by a 38 percent jump in petroleum and petroleum products carloads. Coal loads increased 3 percent.
U.S. coal volumes might continue to rebound; a recent Energy Information Administration short-term outlook estimates total coal production in the second quarter will increase 2 percent year over year, said Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. analysts in their weekly "Rail Flash" report.
"At a recent conference, Peabody Energy expressed its optimistic long-term outlook for Illinois and Powder River Basin coal production and global coal demand," Baird analysts said. "The company expects Illinois Basin and PRB coal demand to increase by a combined 130 million tons through 2017, and global coal consumption to increase by 1.4 billion tons."
Meanwhile, Canadian railroads reported weekly carloads totaling 79,397, down 1.3 percent, and intermodal volume totaling 55,454 units, up 4.6 percent year over year. Mexican railroads' weekly carloads climbed 14.8 percent to 16,087 units, but their intermodal volume declined 6 percent to 9,789 units.
Through 2013's first 20 weeks, 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads handled 7,403,569 carloads, down 0.6 percent, and 6,013,337 containers and trailers, up 4 percent compared with totals from the same 2012 period.
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